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DEBATE: Should GP surgeries be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week? Is it affordable, or practicable?

Should GPs open seven days a week?

Should GPs open seven days a week?

The Prime Minister David Cameron announced at the Conservative party conference this week that GP surgeries could be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The move will make it easier for people see their family doctor from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week,” states Downing Street.

“It will help thousands who struggle to find GP appointments that fit in with their family and work life.”

The proposals have been met with consternation by some doctors though concerned about workforce and financial pressures.

Others meanwhile are embracing a more accessible system, but at what cost would this become possible?

What do you think? Leave a comment below, or email ct.letters@jpress.co.uk

Dr Minesh Patel, lead GP for Horsham and Mid Sussex NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The pilot being established by NHS England in central England will be interesting to follow.

“We are aware that funding has been identified from within healthcare budgets in that local area to run the pilot and we are now seeking clarification as to potential resources in our part of the world.

“We are actively working with GP practices in Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex to develop services and capacity at a time of diminishing resources, increasing workload and complexity of work.

“This involves GPs working together as well as with communities and key partners to deliver the services that local patients need.

“A key part of this is to make best use of all our professionals including nurses, pharmacists, care workers and therapists. Not everything that GPs are currently being asked to do, necessarily needs to be done by doctors.

“There are, however, local challenges in each area such as finding additional workforce to extend GP Practices’ capacity as well as other NHS services to support seven day, 8am ‘til 8pm working, such as access to diagnostic and therapy services.”

Meanwhile, speaking to this paper, Dr Julius Parker, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex Local Medical Committee, the statutory representative body for NHS general practitioners, implied the new proposals could ironically reduce access to GPs at more traditional times.

He said: “We understand the issues of continuity and the desire of patients for access to GP services and it is important for patients to be able to see medical professionals when they need to.

“But the difficulty is that stretching the already stretched workforce over seven days instead of five will not enhance continuity because physically it is not possible for colleagues to be there more often than they are now.

“And therefore it will result in the potential diminishment of the service that is offered during the working week.

Dr Parker added: “The other issue is that it is difficult at the moment to attract and recruit general practitioners (GPs) and these plans imply, if they are going to work, an increase in workforce.

“General Practice at the moment is creaking with the demands being made on it by an increasingly elderly population, an increasing complexity of patient conditions and other demands being made on general practice in terms of its business role, such as Care Quality Commission registration.”

What do you think? Your opinion counts. Soon, the population of Horsham, Crawley and Mid Sussex will be consulted on a redesign and redistribution of local NHS services. Access to healthcare is a critical dimension of the forthcoming debate.

What do you think? Leave a comment below, or email ct.letters@jpress.co.uk

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The Department of Health states: “Innovative practices will be able to apply to a new £50m Challenge Fund to set up a pioneer programme. Pioneers will be established in every region of the country – nine in total – which together are expected to cover up to half a million patients.

“Ministers want to use the pilots as the first step to rolling the scheme out across the country and encouraging hundreds more GP practices to sign up.

“As well as seven day a week access and evening opening hours, these new pioneer GP groups will also test a variety of forward-thinking services to suit modern lifestyles, including greater use of Skype, email and phone consultations for those who would find it easier.

“This first wave of pioneers will form part of a wider plan to strengthen out-of-hospital NHS care, and make it easier for practices to join up with each other, as well as other services provided in the community.

“Based on the success of the first wave, other groups will be encouraged and enabled to open their doors at the evenings and weekends.

“The first wave will open during 2014/15, and include services such as:

- Access 8am-8pm, and on Saturday and Sunday

- Flexible access including email, Skype and phone consultations for those who might prefer it to face-to-face, when it is safe to do so

- Electronic prescriptions and online booking of appointments

- Easier, on-line registration and choice of practice

- Joining-up of urgent care and out-of-hours care to ensure rapid walk-in access to care

- Greater flexibility about how people access general practice, for instance with the option to visit a number of GP surgery sites in their area

- Better access to ‘telecare’ to help sick people stay comfortable at home, as well as to healthy living apps

“The aim is for as many people as possible to benefit from extended access, as rapidly as possible, with the pilots leading the way for others to follow.”

 

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