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PM promises more flexible GP hours

Source BBC News@ tienganhvui.com


DoctorExtending GP hours will relieve the strain on A&E services, David Cameron says



David Cameron says he wants to offer more patients the chance to visit a GP in the evening or at weekends.


Under a scheme to be piloted in nine areas of England, surgeries will be able to bid for funding to open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week.


The prime minister said the £50m project would mean doctors "fit in with work and family life".


Labour said it was an admission of failure after its extended hours scheme was scrapped by the coalition.


Mr Cameron's announcement comes on the penultimate day of the Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester.


The city is already piloting an extended-hours scheme, with GPs grouping together to offer extra care, in what is being billed as an attempt to prevent "unnecessary" visits to hospital A&E wards.


'Skype appointments'

The wider scheme will see practices applying for a share of a £50m "Challenge Fund", with surgeries becoming "pioneers" in each of nine regions, starting in 2014/15.


Mr Cameron is also promising more "flexible access", including email, Skype and telephone consultations for patients who prefer this to face-to-face contact.


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 their services so they can see patients from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week."


Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We live in a 24/7 society, and we need GPs to find new ways of working so they can offer appointments at times that suit hard-working people.


"Cutting-edge GP practices here in Manchester are leading the way, and we want many more patients across the country to benefit."


The last Labour government promised something similar in the form of a health centre in each area in England, says BBC health correspondent Branwen Jeffreys.


Many opened with private companies taking on contracts, effectively competing with local family doctors, but ministers in the coalition were less keen, and some centres have closed, she adds.


That has led to a review by the regulator Monitor, which is looking at whether patient choice is being restricted.


The Royal College of GPs said doctors were keen to do more, but were already struggling with their workload.


'Social care collapse'

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "Under the Tories, hundreds of GP surgeries are shutting their doors earlier after David Cameron scrapped Labour's successful extended opening scheme.


"Patients are also finding it harder to get appointments, and turning to A&E instead, after he removed Labour's guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours."


He added: "So I sincerely hope Jeremy Hunt isn't expecting applause on GP hours, given how they have taken the NHS backwards from the position they inherited from Labour. An apology for the inconvenience they have caused to millions would be more appropriate.


"I also hope he won't claim that this will solve David Cameron's A&E crisis. It is the collapse of social care that is driving vulnerable, older people into hospital in ever greater numbers and this is the crisis they continue to neglect."





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