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Oh no you can’t…

It’s panto season. And at this point, it looks very much like GPs aren’t going to the ball. Because, in terms of whether we can shut up shop early on 24 and 31 December, it’s recently been a case of oh no you can’t, oh yes you can, oh no you can’t.

And, according to a letter from NHS England entitled, ‘GP Practice Opening Times – Christmas and New Year’, ‘oh no you can’t’ is where it ends.  This clamp down, the letter acknowledges, ‘cuts across some longstanding practice’ but it is ‘non-negotiable’.

Of course, it would be easy to hiss at the panto-villain signatory of the letter, Dr David Geddes. So let’s do that. A flimsy rationale that these dates might be the ‘only opportunity for patients who are otherwise working to attend to collect prescription medication and review prior to the festive season’ certainly does deserve some rotten tomatoes – given that we all know, in truth, that the opportunity it really presents is for them to get pissed, fall over and end up in casualty.

Some of the other points made – about our contracted hours, winter pressures, subliminal messages to patients – are fair enough. But they’ll be lost in the ill will generated by a decision hinging on what exactly constitutes, at a time of notoriously low demand, a service meeting the ‘reasonable needs of patients’.

Dr Geddes is a GP, of course. So he’s behind you! Or rather, it seems, he isn’t.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.