GPs in England are coming under increasing pressure from the Government to open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week. They risk losing extra funding if they refuse.
The government claims that patients were going to A&E departments in hospitals as they can’t get appointments with their GP.
The British Medical Association has accused the government of “scapegoating” GPS.
In England surgeries are expected to open between 08:00 and 18:30 Monday to Friday. GPs can get extra funding if the surgery opens outside of these hours.
A spokesperson for the government said, “Most GPs do a fantastic job, and have their patients’ interests firmly at heart.
“However, it is increasingly clear that a large number of surgeries are not providing the access that patients need – and that patients are suffering as a result because they are then forced to go to A&E to seek care.
“It’s also bad for hospitals, who then face additional pressure on their services.”
National Audit Office Figures
According to National Audit Office (NAO) figures, just under half of surgeries closed at some point during core hours, and just under a fifth closed at or before 3pm one day a week.
The NAO said that 75% of surgeries that closed early one day a week were receiving extra funding for providing access outside of core hours.
Ministers also claim that they have seen evidence stating that surgeries were failing to tell patients about extending appointment hours or checking the appointment is at a convenient time.
Government line rejected
The government’s line has been torpedoed by those in the medical profession. Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the pressures on A&E departments were due to seriously ill patients where getting a GP appointment would have made no difference.
While Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs said. “So to put pressure on a system that’s already cracking is unhelpful and it’s going to demoralise GPs further.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking in Central London said, Theresa May was blaming the crisis on “hard-pressed and under-pressure GPs” and not the real reason which is underfunding by government.