GPs set for government showdown as Queen's speech confirms seven-day access plans

The government has confirmed it will introduce measures to increase GP access in the next year setting it on a collision course with the profession.

Queen's speech confirmed ministers' plan to ensure more NHS services run on weekends
Queen's speech confirmed ministers' plan to ensure more NHS services run on weekends

The Queen’s speech, setting out the government’s agenda for the new session of parliament, confirmed ministers' plan to ensure more NHS services run on weekends.

The Queen said: ‘In England, my government will secure the future of the NHS by implementing the NHS's own five-year plan, by increasing the health budget, integrating health care and social care, and ensuring the NHS works on a seven-day basis. Measures will be introduced to improve access to GPs and to mental health care.’

The Conservatives promised in their election manifesto to ensure every patient in England would have 8 till 8 and seven-day GP access, a proposal which has been bitterly opposed by GPs.

GP access fund will cover 18 million patients

In a briefing note accompanying the Queen's speech, the government said the prime minister's GP access fund was already extending evening and weekend access and would cover 18 million patients by the end of the year. 'That access will be expanded further', it added. 

GP leaders have hardened their language over the government's access plans since the Conservatives won a majority earlier this month. GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul made a last-ditch appeal to ministers to dump the proposals and focus on the workforce and funding crisis. Addressing the annual conference of UK LMCs, Dr Nagpaul called on David Cameron to ‘jettison the political pipe dreams of tomorrow and get real about how we resource, resuscitate and rebuild general practice’.

‘Ministers must halt their surreal obsession for practices to open seven days when there aren’t the GPs to even cope with current demands’, he said. 

GPC executive member Dr Beth McCarron Nash told the conference it would be ‘completely unacceptable’ for the government to impose seven-day services in the GP contract. Executive member Dr Charlotte Jones added: ‘There is no way they are going to impose that on us.’

The prime minister said last week there would be a ‘new deal’ for general practice, recruiting 5,000 more GPs and providing new investment and training. 

The ‘big vision’, the prime minister said, was for ‘a modern NHS working for you seven days of the week - when you need it, where you need it’.

The vision, Mr Cameron added, was rethinking primary care: ‘Prevention, not just treatment. Tackling causes, not just symptoms. Treating the whole person, not just an individual ailment’.

* Viewpoint: We need to restore GP morale not flog them to death

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