Far from sure that this is the right approach. The Independent reports:
All doctor’s surgeries in England will open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, Theresa May has vowed, unless they can prove there is no demand from patients.
Ministers hope improving access to GPs will ease pressure on hospitals, which has become critical. There is increasing exasperation in Government that the lack of GP appointments is driving patients to seek treatment in hard-pressed hospital accident and emergency departments.
In addition, GPs will be warned that in future money to surgeries which are not open when patients want to visit will be cut.
The director of acute care for NHS England Professor Keith Willett has recently estimated that 30 per cent of the patients attending A&E would be better cared for elsewhere in the system.I have no great sympathy for GPs - the last time I contacted my local GP practice in Edinburgh, I was offered an appointment some three weeks later. But ...
Are there enough GPs to cover a 7 by 12 schedule? Are practices not already under-staffed and do they not already rely on a supply of locums? Are sufficient students coming through the medical schools and opting for general practice? And all this at a time when the recruitment of doctors from outwith the UK is likely to become ever more restricted.
And, even if the alleged 30% of patients attending A&E but suffering minor ailments and complaints could be re-directed to GPs, would it make a significant difference to the hard-pressed A&E departments?. After all, it is not those kind of patients who are having to wait for surgery on trolleys in corridors.
Finally, given the serious problems in the NHS, a better way forward might involve seeking the co-operation of the medical profession rather than issuing unworkable ultimatums.