GP out-of-hours opt-out was wrong, says prime minister David Cameron

GPs should not have been allowed to opt out of 24-hour responsibility for patients under the 2004 GP contract, prime minister David Cameron has told MPs.

David Cameron: Labour wrong over out-of-hours opt-out (photo: PR Week)
David Cameron: Labour wrong over out-of-hours opt-out (photo: PR Week)

His comments follow a pledge from Labour leader Ed Miliband that the party would reinstate 48-hour GP access targets if it wins the 2015 general election.

At prime minister’s question time in the House of Commons, MP Khalid Mahmood (Lab, Birmingham, Perry Barr) asked Mr Cameron if he regretted scrapping the previous government’s 48-hour access target.

Mr Cameron replied: ‘I will tell the hon. gentleman what I regret. I regret the fact that the last Labour government signed a contract with the GPs that meant that they did not have to offer a service out-of-hours or at the weekend.’

More GP appointments

The prime minister said access to GP appointments had increased since the coalition government took office in 2010.

He told MPs: ‘The RCGP says that there are something like 40 million more GP appointments since 2010. The patient survey, which was always quoted by Labour ministers, states that 93% of people say that appointments in the GP system are convenient.

‘Frankly, I want more. As the father of three young children, I know how important it is to get timely GP appointments. That is why we are training 5,000 more GPs, why we now have named GPs for frail and elderly people, and why 1,000 GP centres are now open from 8 am to 8 pm and at weekends.’

Comments from DH officials ahead of the 2014/15 contract deal had suggested GPs may be forced to take back out-of-hours responsibility for patients.

A GP poll last year found that 80% of GPs were opposed to a return to 24-hour responsibility for patients.

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