Parties clash over GP opening hours

7 Apr 15

There has been a decline in the number of GP surgeries offering evening and weekend appointments over the last five years, according to Labour’s health spokesman Andy Burnham.

Highlighting figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s NHS Payments to General Practice, England, 2013/14 report, Burnham said almost 600 surgeries that had offered out-of-hours appointments in 2010, had stopped this service over the coalition’s term.

He added that the pressure faced by accident and emergency departments was in part due to a fall in the availability of out-of-hours services from family doctors.

‘Today, across the country, people will face the frustration of joining a queue to see their GP – in some places the lines will go out of the surgery door. After five years of David Cameron, patients at hundreds of surgeries can no longer get a GP appointment when they need one,’ Burnham said.

‘At the last election, he promised to open GP surgeries seven days a week but the reality is that millions more patients are unhappy with opening hours. It is now harder to get an appointment from Monday to Friday too.’

He said Labour planned to hire 8,000 more GPs as part of its £2.5bn Time to Care fund.

However, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats disputed Labour’s figures, saying they were out of date as they did not reflect a pilot scheme, begun last April, to extend opening hours at more than 1,100 practices and not reflected in the HSCIC figures.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘We are extending this scheme to cover over 1,400 additional practices, helping 10 million extra people by this time next year.

‘The next Conservative government will deliver a truly seven-day NHS, putting right a problem which began with Labour’s disastrous 2004 GP contract.’

Liberal Democrat general election spokesman Lord Scriven also said that Labour’s figures were out of date. ‘

Their figures are from 2013 and conveniently ignore the impact of the £50m GP Access Fund, delivered by the Liberal Democrats in government last year, which has supported 1,147 practices in extending their hours.

‘Until Ed Miliband matches our commitment to meeting the £8bn shortfall in the NHS budget, they do not deserve a hearing.’

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