GPs will have to provide patients with seven-day-a-week access to services by 2020, David Cameron will announce today as the Tories attempt to counter Labour’s attack on their NHS record.
Under the plan, £400m will be invested over the next five years to pay for increasing access, including extending surgery opening times from 8am to 8pm. However, only £100m of this will be spent ahead of the General Election, including £50m already pledged to roll out the scheme in pilot areas. Big logistical hurdles also remain in providing the service nationwide.
The measure is likely to be opposed by doctors groups who will argue that there are not enough trained GPs to staff the extended opening hours. They also point out that the vast majority of people who need to see their GP regularly are elderly and not in work. They suggest that extended opening hours could actually restrict GP access during weekdays. But Mr Cameron said it was important that people were “able to see their GP at a time that suits them and their family”.
“We will support thousands more GP practices to stay open longer, giving millions of patients better access,” he said. “This is only possible because we’ve taken difficult decisions to reduce inefficient and ineffective spending elsewhere. You can’t fund the NHS if you don’t have a healthy, growing economy.”
The Conservatives hope the move could help reduce demand on A&E departments.