Plan for GP surgeries to open seven days a week

Plan for GP surgeries to open seven days a week

David Cameron will announce proposals at the Tory conference tomorrow aimed at addressing complaints that limited GP opening hours make it hard for working people to get an appointment. “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,” he said.

The changes will be trialled at a handful of surgeries next year.

NHS hospitals are struggling to cope with a rising number of admissions to accident and emergency departments and ministers say many people decide to go to hospital because they cannot see a GP easily.

The Department of Health will now set aside £50 million for GP surgeries who want to apply for money to fund longer hours and new consultation methods.

Those practices will open from 8am until 8pm and at weekends. Doctors will also offer to consult via email, video-conferencing software like Skype and telephone calls. Patients with long-term conditions will also be offered “telecare” technology to monitor their health, reducing the need for surgery visits.

The proposals, signalled by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, in The Daily Telegraph last week, come as ministers prepare to renegotiate GPs’ contracts to improve the service.

Many surgeries open from 9am until 5pm. Doctors’ groups say they cannot open for longer hours because they are already overworked. But Mr Hunt said doctors must update their working habits to reflect patients’ needs.

By James Kirkup

The Telegraph, 1st October 2013

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