Seven million patients to benefit from GP opening hours scheme

Prime Minister, David Cameron has announced that the £50m GP Access Fund, originally estimated to benefit 500,000 patients, is now predicted to benefit more than seven million patients.  The ‘great response’ from surgeries means that a total of 1,147 surgeries will be taking part.

The fund is intended to allow patients to see their GP at evenings and weekends as well as providing remote access for convenience.  Participating surgeries will use methods such as face-to-face appointments, telephone conversations, email and Skype.

Mr Cameron said “There has been a great response from doctors, with lots of innovative ideas, and we will now see over seven million patients given weekend and evening opening hours, alongside more access to their family doctor on the phone, via email or even Skype.  This is an important step and good news for patients.”

However, the government have been criticised for making it harder for patients to see a GP in the first place.  Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary said Mr Cameron had “removed Labour’s guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours”adding that the current government have “cut the money for later opening hours.”  He said “For the vast majority who are outside of this scheme, things will carry on getting worse and they are being told to expect to wait a week for a GP appointment.”

Chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practice Committee, Dr Chaand Nagpul said that the changes must be properly supported, adding that “The government must take further action so that community, social and urgent care work in tandem to deliver truly holistic care to patients.  Ministers must also deliver on their commitment to increase resources in the community so that there are more GPs, nurses and other health and social care services to provide co-ordinated care to the escalating number of patients who need care closer to home.”

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