The Prime Minister has pledged that everyone in England will have access to a family doctor seven days a week by 2020. He has also stated he wants GP practices to open for up to 12 hours a day. The move is intended to relieve pressures on hospitals and give working people access to doctors at weekends.
In his address at the Conservative conference he will unveil a further £100m from April 2015 for a fund set up last year to improve flexibility. Practices around the country will be invited to bid for funds for 2015/16. The government has predicted that extending opening hours to seven days a week in all areas by 2020 will cost approximately £400m over the next 5 years.
Mr Cameron stated “people need to be able to see their GP at a time that suit them and their family. That’s why we will ensure everyone can see a GP seven days a week by 2020. We will also support thousands more GP practices to stay open longer – giving millions of patients better access to their doctor. This is only possible because we’ve taken difficult decisions to reduce inefficient and ineffective spending elsewhere as part of our long-term economic plan.”
However, doctors unions have labelled the plans unrealistic and have previously claimed that there are too few GPs to staff the extra hours and doing so could have a negative impact on weekday services.
The announcement comes at the same time as the regulator, CQC, announces that up to 200 GP surgeries face closure or being placed in special measures. This follows the CQC pilot of its new way of inspecting GP practices that took place between April and June 2014. CQC has said that the inspections conducted so far, confirm that most practices are providing high quality care, but a small number are providing very poor care.
The Chief Inspector of General Practice, Professor Steve Field, has stated “where practices give cause for concern the main priority is for those practices to improve and the new special measures regime is designed to direct practices to improvement and give them time to improve.”