Tory manifesto accelerates seven-day GP access for all patients

The Conservative party has said every patient in England will have access to seven-day GP services by 2019 - a year earlier than promised in its last manifesto - but does not mention plans for 5,000 extra GPs.

In the 2015 manifesto the party under David Cameron said that by 2020 everyone in England would have access to a GP ‘seven days a week, from 8am-8pm’.

Theresa May's manifesto said: 'We want England to be the first nation in the world to provide a truly seven-day healthcare service. That ambition starts with primary care. Already 17m people can get routine weekend or evening appointments at either their own GP surgery or one nearby, and this will expand to the whole population by 2019.'

The party has recommitted itself to several policies made ahead of the 2015 election and since, including a ‘new GP contract to develop wider primary care services’, named GPs and plans to expand online and phone consultations.

NHS funding

Theresa May’s party would extend the current financial settlement for the NHS in England for a further two years with a pledge to increase real terms funding by a minimum of £8bn over the next five years.

The manifesto also suggested a Conservative government would increase capital funding for practice premises, ‘building and upgrading primary care facilities, mental health clinics and hospitals in every part of England. Over the course of the next parliament, this will amount to the most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology the NHS has ever seen’.

The party said it would make securing the position of EU health professionals a ‘priority’ in Brexit negotiations. It would also continue to support a 1,500-a-year increase in medical students.

GP access

The manifesto said: ‘We expect GPs to come together to provide greater access, more innovative services, share data and offer better facilities, while ensuring care remains personal – particularly for older and more vulnerable people – with named GPs accountable for individual patients. We will support GPs to deliver innovative services that better meet patients’ needs, including phone and on-line consultations and the use of technology to triage people better so they see the right clinician more quickly.’

The manifesto failed to recommit the party to to the plan, announced ahead of the 2015 election, to recruit an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020.

The Conservatives said they would ensure ‘appropriate funding for GPs to meet rising costs of indemnity in the short term while working with the profession to introduce a sustainable long-term solution’.

Legislative and structural barriers to integration could be removed, the manifesto said, to enable the NHS to implment its STP plans.

It said: We will hold NHS England’s leaders to account for delivering their plan to improve patient care. If the current legislative landscape is either slowing implementation or preventing clear national or local accountability, we will consult and make the necessary legislative changes. This includes the NHS’s own internal market, which can fail to act in the interests of patients and creates costly bureaucracy. So we will review the operation of the internal market and, in time for the start of the 2018 financial year, we will make non-legislative changes to remove barriers to the integration of care.'

The BMA said the manifesto would do nothing to reasure doctors and patients that the Conservatives had a vision to deliver the fudning needed for the NHS's survival.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: 'The extra £8bn touted in this manifesto for the NHS is smoke and mirrors – rather than extra money, this essentially extends the funding already promised in the 2015 spending review for another two years and falls far short of what is needed.'

'The NHS is already at breaking point, and without the necessary investment patients will face longer delays, care will be compromised and services will struggle to keep up. Providing additional care across the week requires not just more funding, but more doctors, nurses, diagnostic and community care staff, otherwise exiting staff will be stretched even more thinly than they already are.'

The union said the announcement on EU staff was 'promsing', but 'the emphasis on training future doctors in the UK will not solve the current workforce crisis', said Dr Porter. 

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