Seven-day opening for GP surgeries is "not achievable" say doctors' leaders (From The Northern Echo)
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Seven-day opening for GP surgeries is "not achievable" say doctors' leaders
MORE than 80 per cent of GP surgeries in the region are shut all weekend - making David Cameron’s pledge of seven-day opening “unachievable”, doctors’ leaders say.
Furthermore, the vast majority of surgeries that do open on Saturdays offer appointments for just a few hours that day.
And only six of about 300 practices across the North-East and North Yorkshire are open on both Saturday and Sunday – the prime minister’s aim.
Now the Family Doctor Association, which represents about 1,000 practices across the country, has accused Mr Cameron of promising an “undeliverable service”.
Dr Peter Swinyard, the organisation’s chairman, said: “The announcement isn't realistic within the resources that we have in the health service.
“It's not realistic to talk about GP services opening from eight until eight, seven days a week – that's the bottom line.”
Earlier this month, Mr Cameron unveiled plans to encourage GP surgeries to open over the weekend – for 12 hours each day – to make appointments easier for patients.
He said: “Millions of people find it hard to get an appointment to see their GP at a time that fits in with their work and family life.
“We want to support GPs to modernise services so they can see patients from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.”
However, Mr Cameron announced only a £50m fund for a trial scheme, enough to fund weekend opening at just 50 practices across the country, from next year.
The Northern Echo analysed almost 300 practices in the North-East and North Yorkshire, part of a study carried out by The Guardian newspaper, and found:
* Only about 50 offer even Saturday opening, mostly for a few hours in the morning.
* Only one of 12 surgeries in Darlington opens on a Saturday - Dr Rhodes and Partners, in Willow Road, for under two hours.
* Just eight of more than 100 practices across County Durham offer Saturday opening.
* Only ten of more than 60 across North Yorkshire do so.
The Royal College of GPs has argued the NHS already needs 10,000 more GPs to cope with an ageing population and an increase in long-term medical conditions.
It warned weekend opening would force some GPs to refuse appointments on weekdays instead – disappointing other patients.
But the department of health insisted the extension was “entirely possible”, with some patients in line to enjoy longer hours from next April.
A spokeswoman said: “GPs do a fantastic job and we want to work with them to ensure services meet the needs of modern day life.”
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