GP morale in Wales hit by extended opening demands

GP morale in Wales has been undermined by government calls for practices to extend their opening hours, GPC Wales has warned.

Dr David Bailey: warning over impact of calls for practices to open longer
Dr David Bailey: warning over impact of calls for practices to open longer

Commenting online in a BMA question and answer session, GPC Wales chairman Dr David Bailey said that ‘repeated government announcements on 8am to 8pm opening hours and Saturday access have damaged GP morale’.

Dr Bailey said he had contacted the Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones to alert him about how GPs were being affected.

Dr Bailey said: ‘GPs in Wales have made huge progress towards improving access in contracted hours over the last four years despite the highest chronic disease prevalence in the UK, and thoughtless pronouncements are undermining this.’

The GPC has previously warned Welsh government plans to see half of GP practices in Wales offer extended hours opening by March 2016 would also increase NHS costs.

Dr Bailey said: ‘We have repeatedly pointed out that using funds for extended hours may impact on other enhanced services.’

He reassured GPs that the GPC would not enter negations to alter the core contracted hours for Welsh GPs.

However over the last year the committee had taken part in discussions on ‘improving in-hours access, widening take-up of the negotiated extended hours directed enhanced service - which usually funds one extended evening per week - and looking at whether out-of-hours organisations could provide some routine Saturday access’, Dr Bailey said.

Responding to the comments Lesley Griffiths, minister for Health and Social Services in Wales, said: ‘Improving access to GP surgeries for working people is a key programme for Government commitment. A staged approach has been developed to deliver this commitment. 

‘We would not expect all practices to provide extended opening as there is unlikely to be that level of need, also practices will not necessarily offer extended opening every day of the week.  In relation to access at the weekend, a review is underway to explore potential models.   

‘The delivery of this commitment will not involve any contractual imposition, but will involve close collaboration with GPC Wales and Health Boards to ensure we meet the reasonable needs of patients.  

‘I am pleased with the improvements to GP access and appreciate the commitment which GPs have made to respond to this, in particular the significant reduction in half day closing and more appointments being offered after 5.00pm.’

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