In his keynote speech to the party's conference in Brighton last week, prime minister Gordon Brown praised the success of the existing scheme in getting 75% of practices in England to open extended hours. But he added that over the next five years ‘we will ensure every patient has the right to see a GP in the evening or at the weekend'.
Health minister Mike O'Brien clarified to GP newspaper that this would mean extending hours at every practice.
The demand for walk-in services at GP-led health centres had made it ‘clear there's a demand to see GPs at evenings and weekends'. ‘In due course, we'd like to see all GP surgeries being able to offer them to patients who want them. We hope it'll be part of the core offer.'
Mr O'Brien said that the government would talk to the GPC about how to fund and deliver the scheme over the course of the next parliament.
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said the plans were a ‘misunderstanding of how practices work and what patients need'. He said it may be unaffordable in a recession.
A Conservative spokesman said the party would scrap extended hours. ‘It would be up to GPs how long they stay open,' he said.
The Tories would make GPs responsible ‘for commissioning patient care 24/7', so they would have to arrange cover outside the hours they provide themselves, he added.
- Should all practices extend hours?