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GP opening hours key Labour health pledge in disarray – Kirsty Williams

July 4, 2012 4:31 PM

A survey of GPs in Wales by the Welsh Liberal Democrats has revealed that 87% of GPs disagree with the Welsh Government's policy of making GPs' surgeries open during the evening and weekends. Additionally, 98% of GPs who responded to the survey said that they do not believe that the policy could be implemented without additional funding.

The majority of GPs feel that their current opening hours already give patients adequate access and that there is no need to extend opening hours. Some GPs said that they had carried out their own surveys asking what patients want with little or no call for evening or weekend access to their GPs.

GPs also oppose this policy on cost grounds. While 63% of GPs said that there is no need to implement this policy, 37% said that it will be too costly. One GP wrote "in times of financial crisis, this is a luxury the NHS cannot afford." Another responded "If practices are to be open longer hours this will require funding." One GP pointed out "they would have to take money from elsewhere thus depriving someone of a needed service."

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:

"The results of our survey clearly show that the Labour party had not seriously thought through their policies before they put them to the people of Wales. This was their key health pledge and now GPs, the professionals who are expected to deliver it, have questioned whether it is needed or whether it is affordable in the current financial climate.

"The Health Minister has already stated that there would be no additional cost implications as the policy would be achieved under the existing GP contract. In our survey, almost all of the GPs who responded say that they do not believe that the policy can be implemented without additional funding. Additional resources will have to be found within the LHB budget which will add to the already significant financial pressures that our LHBs face.

"Many of the GPs who responded to the survey said that their contract would have to be re-negotiated if the Welsh Government forced them to work evening and weekends. One GP pointed out that until 2004 they did work Saturday mornings but the new GP contact took away the funding for that service.

"The majority of GPs feel that their current opening hours already give patients adequate access and that there is no need to extend opening hours. Some GPs said that they had carried out their own surveys asking what patients want with little or no call for evening or weekend access to their GPs.

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats are very supportive of making it easier for working people to access their GPs and we want to see them being able to register at a surgery close to where they work so they can easily access their GPs. With Labour's poorly managed policy, clearly, there has been little or no consultation at all with GPs about whether this is affordable or whether this is deliverable."

ENDS

Notes:

Surveys were sent out to every GP surgery in Wales in June 2012, some 680 in total. Nearly 20% have so far responded. Given the timing of the Health Minister's statement on evening and weekend opening hours on Tuesday 3rd of July, we have decided to release early analysis of the GP survey relating to surgery opening hours. The full survey will be released in due course.