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GP Surgeries

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2008

The Government are working to make it easier for people to see their GP in the evening and at weekends. We are also investing £250 million in new GP-led health centres in every health care area of England, open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and in extra GP surgeries in poorly served areas.

My constituency has benefited from a great deal of investment, especially at Priory Road health centre in Parks. Does my hon. Friend share the concern of my constituents at the Queen’s Road medical centre, who are unsure whether they will have a GP surgery in future, as it is considering moving to north Swindon? What hope can he give my constituents that they can see a doctor without having to make a complicated bus journey?

I understand that the problem to which my hon. Friend refers concerns two branches of a practice, which it does not believe are adequate to provide the sort of care that their patients expect. However, it is the duty of all primary care trusts to ensure that GPs and primary care services are adequate for an area and that there are no big gaps, especially in areas such as those that my hon. Friend mentioned, which I know quite well. I hope that when the local primary care trust considers the proposals, it will work closely with my hon. Friend, and also with my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills), to ensure that all patients in the city of Swindon are well served by expanding GP services.

The Opposition believe that the most accessible health care services are those tailored to local needs and priorities, not those that are centrally imposed. In the debate on 23 April about GP services and access, the Secretary of State said that primary care trusts that did not want GP-led health centres would be able to use the resources to provide primary care services more appropriate to their local patients’ needs. Does the Minister stand by his boss’s statement that primary care trusts can say no to GP-led health centres?

No, my right hon. Friend did not say that. There is good flexibility in the proposals that we put to primary care trusts. Labour Members are interested in making it easier for people to see their GP. It is astonishing that the Conservative party’s policy now is to hand over policy to the doctors’ union, the BMA, and allow it to decide—[Interruption.] Yes, I am sorry, but the Leader of the Opposition said in a speech 10 days ago that the BMA should be able to decide when surgeries could open and where they were located. The Conservatives even launched a website so that doctors could sign their petition.