Family doctors in the North East have criticised the Prime Minister’s pledge to open GP services seven days a week by 2020.
His aim is to get GPs to open up 12 hours each day to allow working people to access a doctor at weekends, as well as to help ease increasing pressures on hospitals.
Yet, as previously reported, GPs in the region have raised fears of a “workforce crisis” within general practice, as they insist there is problems with recruitment and retention of family doctors.
Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East British Medical Association said: “David Cameron does not address the current reality of what patients and GPs are facing in the North. We know that GPs in the North East are retiring early and younger doctors are not coming into the profession.
“We need immediate solutions to the extreme pressures that GP practices in our region are facing. We have inadequate numbers of GPs and practice staff trying to manage an increasing volume of patients, who are already having to wait too long for care.
“The profession has already set out a range of solutions to address the immediate access needs of patients. It is imperative the Government prioritises caring for the needs of patients today, rather than just offering promises for the future.”
It is expected that many medical surgeries will be asked to open from 8am until 8pm each day. Commenting on plans to extend seven-day GP services throughout the country, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are determined that people should be able to see a GP at a time that suits them, which is why we will make sure of seven-day GP access throughout the country by 2020.
“We’re also announcing that everyone will get access to a named GP, which Labour inexplicably scrapped. This Government is supporting thousands more GP practices to stay open longer – and helping GPs to deliver the personal and proactive care patients want. We can only do this because of the difficult economic decisions we’ve taken, allowing us to increase the NHS budget - meaning people can be confident the NHS will be there for them and their families.”
National Health Action Party co-leader Dr Clive Peedell, a consultant clinical oncologist at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, said Mr Cameron’s claims that his reforms have put doctors in charge of the NHS “do not match the reality on the ground”.