GPs pressured by Hewitt18th June 2007
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has said that GPs in England should extend their opening hours.
Speaking to the BBC News website about the results of the govenment's £11m survey of over 2m patients, she said that patients were not happy about current levels of access. She cautioned GPs that if they did not make changes in response to demands they could lose money.
Ms Hewitt said that although the "great majority" of patients were pleased with GP services and access, there was a "significant minority" who were not content.
She said that after the survey was published, "money will duly flow to the majority where patients are satisfied and not to the minority where patients are not satisfied."
She stated that information would be released "practice by practice" in order to "help drive improvements." She called for GPs to recognise that if they served an area with a high levels of commuters, early and late opening times would be what their patients desired.
Doctors were given the option to not provide out-of-hours services under the terms of the new GP contract in 2004. The patient survey assesses doctors' levels of access and is used to define an element of the £8,000 contract given to GPs.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said that offering extended hours would mean cutbacks in other areas.
"It is not just about having a GP in a practice. You also need reception staff, nurses and access to blood tests. That means cutting back on services at other times."
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