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Wednesday 20th June 2018

GPs are 'at the end of their tether'

30th January 2008

Ann Robinson writes in the Guardian on how the government's insistence on extended opening hours is driving GPs to despair.


In a meeting held before Christmas of local London GPs, everyone was "up in arms" at the idea that we would need to work on weekends with little financial compensation. Our usual working hours are from 8.30am to 6.30pm. We all agreed that we would have to be forced to do it when the moment came.

The British Medical Association (BMA) had almost agreed new targets with the health service. The government then insisted, before it agreed to sign off the document, that GPs had to give patients extra opening hours.

The BMA told the government it needed to consult its members. The government agreed to this, but stated that if doctors did not agree to extended hours, they would force them to offer them and deduct money from those practices which did not offer them. GPs are allowed until April 1 to agree to the changes.

Although the government has made "some constructive improvements in healthcare" - in particular waiting times and the Choose and Book system - it is seriously overlooking the problems involved in offering "Tesco-style" healthcare.

The government seems content that doctors will have to work "all hours" and "plug the gaps with imported and private manpower." Imported GPs will not know crucial local information and cultural details.

Six million patients responded to the National Patient Survey and 84% said they were "satisfied with access" to their doctor. Opening surgeries at all hours of the day and night is not necessarily the best way to satisfy the 16% of patients who are not satisfied.

"Some GPs have reached the end of their tether" and talk about leaving the health service and "going private". While GPs are unlikely to leave the NHS en masse - as dentists have done - they are very dissatisfied with government's plans.

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