'No way' GPs could safely offer a routine seven-day service, warns RCGP Chair

The Chair of the RCGP has warned that the severe shortage of GPs means they could not provide a full weekend service without 'serious impact' on weekday appointments.

The government mandated NHS England in 2015 to provide weekend routine GP access for every patient in England by 2020 and for a fifth of the population by the end of 2016/17 but there is growing evidence of limited demand for weekend GP services, including from the government's own pilots.

RCGP Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'GPs are working flat out to do the best they can for their patients, but with a severe shortage of family doctors already seeing record numbers of people, there is no way that a seven day routine service could be delivered without having a serious impact on services through the week.

'Patients can always see a GP through the out-of-hours service when they urgently need one. But there is a distinction between 'need' and 'want' and there is very little evidence to show that patients want or need to see a GP for non-urgent care on a Sunday afternoon.'

Tory MP backs call to scrap Sunday surgeries

Her call was backed by chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee Dr Sarah Wollaston, who said that given the shortfalls in workforce and funding, plus the potential impact on other GP services, the government should listen to the RCGP Chair and scrap the plan for routine Sunday surgeries.

Professor Stokes-Lampard, a GP in Lichfield, Staffordshire, said most GPs were already working at the limits of what is safe, and working at weekends would inevitably reduce the availability of doctors to provide patient care during the week.

'There are 1.3m patient consultations in general practice every day and we are seeing 60m more patients every year than we were even five years ago. But the number of GPs has not kept pace with patient demand and while we are seeing as many patients as we can, patient safety - and doctors' own health - must be paramount.'

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