Extending access to GP services must be based on patient need, says RCGP

By agency reporter
October 2, 2018

Responding to analysis by Pulse magazine into patient demand for evening and weekend appointments for routine GP services, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "General practice is facing intense resource and workforce pressures at the moment – our workload has increased exponentially in terms of volume and complexity, but the share of the NHS budget we receive is less than it was a decade ago, and GP numbers are actually decreasing.

"GPs want to give patients access to services they need but this will differ depending on local demographics. At a time when general practice is struggling for resources, and patients are waiting longer and longer for appointments, to find out so many evening and weekend appointments have been unfilled due to lack of demand is shocking.

"GP practices know who their patients are, so they are best placed to make decisions about how to provide extended access to routine services in the best interests of their local population, and not simply to meet arbitrary targets.

"With the NHS already cash-strapped, it is crucial that NHS resources are spent wisely and this data indicates that there could be an opportunity to reassess current arrangements for the delivery of extended access to routine services in those areas where extra appointments are not being utilised by patients, so that resources are being used most effectively to meet local patient need.

"Patients should already be able to access GP care when they need to through routine GP services and the GP out of hours service. What we need is better public awareness of the different services available for patients, so that they know where to turn when they become ill.

"The Prime Minister has announced additional money to fund a long-term plan for the NHS, and the vital role that general practice plays in keeping the health service safe and sustainable must be recognised in this, and to this end the College has called for an extra £2.5 billion extra a year for our service. It is also essential that NHS England's GP Forward View, promising £2.4 billion extra a year for general practice, and 5,000 more GPs by 2020 is delivered in full and as a matter of urgency."

* Royal College of General Practitioners http://www.rcgp.org.uk/

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