December 9 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Rural communities could be left with a worse family doctor service under government plans to make surgeries open seven days a week - an MP has warned.
Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has raised concerns about her leader’s plans for a £50m pilot to make surgeries open from 8am to 8pm, claiming money could be pumped into urban areas making it harder to recruit trained staff in rural practices.
She also warned expectations could be raised that the plans would be a “magic bullet” for GP access, when in reality small rural practices with just a handful of doctors would be unable to provide the extended service.
The prime minister announced a £50 million trial to encourage longer GP opening hours to ease pressure on stretched A&E departments at his party conference in Manchester yesterday, which will include nine pilot projects in areas across England.
Devon MP Dr Wollaston, who was a GP, told the Western Morning News she was concerned that the goal will be impossible to achieve without more GPs and nurses and she was worried the plan would fail if politicians were “dictating how GPs have to do it”.
She said rural towns and villages risked getting less access to doctors if the pilot seven-day services attracted doctors to urban areas.
And added that small practices could struggle to stay open at weekends – whereas larger city practices could adapt.
She said: “You could make access to GPs worse in some parts of the country by putting money into pilots in urban areas. The question is are we going to make it even more difficult to recruit GPs in rural areas.
“The danger is we raise expectations that this will be the magic bullet for GP access. But that won’t happen unless you address the problem of the workforce crisis. “If you have a small practice in rural Devon with only two doctors, how are you going to be able to roll this model out? It could be different if you have a large practice. If you have six doctors you might be able to come up with a solution.” Mr Cameron said: “We want to support GPs to modernise their services so they can see patients from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
“We also want greater flexibility, so people can speak to their family doctor on the phone, send them an email or even speak to them on Skype.” The first pilot projects are due to be operating by April 2014 with the hope they will be copied widely across the country.
Critics say there is already a shortage of GPs because of a retirement “bulge”, more female doctors working part-time and a trend for medical school graduates to seek consultant hospital jobs.