Seven-day general practice 'not logistically possible', warns GPC chairman

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul has warned health secretary Jeremy Hunt that patient care will be damaged if practices are forced to open seven days a week at a time when many are 'under-resourced and struggling'.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: Warning over impact of seven-day general practice (Photo: Pete Hill)
Dr Chaand Nagpaul: Warning over impact of seven-day general practice (Photo: Pete Hill)

Speaking ahead of a speech on Friday - to be webcast live on GPonline - in which Mr Hunt will outline a 'new deal' for general practice, Dr Nagpaul welcomed the health secretary's recognition that general practice was a vital part of the NHS and that investment was essential.

But echoing his LMCs conference speech last month, Dr Nagpaul hit out strongly at the damaging effect that a move to seven-day general practice could have.

The GPC chairman said: 'GPs want and need more time to care for their patients, but at the moment, nine out of 10 GPs feel that excessive workload is damaging the quality of care they can provide patients, and this is having a major demoralising effect on the profession – one that’s pushing more and more doctors toward the exit.

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'At the same time, this pressure cooker environment is putting younger doctors off a career in general practice. The health secretary himself recognises the impact of the "hamster wheel" that is the reality of general practice.'

Tackling workload should be the government's first priority to make general practice an attractive career option for young doctors, Dr Nagpaul warned.

'It is positive that the government has listened to our calls to resource and  support struggling practices – but this needs to be adequate and available now to for the escalating numbers of practice who are vulnerable,' he said.

On seven-day services, Dr Nagpaul warned: 'At a time when even the government recognises that general practice is under-resourced and practices struggling with GP vacancies, with some even closing, it is not logistically possible for GP surgeries to be open nationally seven days, without stretching GPs so thinly so as to damage quality.

'Further, it is crucial that taxpayers' money is not diverted from frail elderly patients in greatest need given that pilots of seven-day routine working are increasingly demonstrating a low uptake of routine weekend appointments. The government should focus on supporting practices to provide accessible services during the day and further develop the current 24/7 urgent GP service, so that patients can be confident of getting access to a quality GP service day and night.'

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