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NHS GP Surgeries

Volume 482: debated on Wednesday 5 November 2008

The Petition of supporters of NHS General Practice surgeries,

Declares that in the 60th year of the NHS the House of Commons should support existing NHS GP surgeries, improve services to patients by further investment in existing GP surgeries and be aware of the risks posed by Government plans to promote the use of commercial companies in general practice. further declares that they do not want public funding to move from GP practices to commercial companies who are accountable primarily to shareholders rather than patients, and declares that they wish to be treated by GPs who see them as patients, rather than as customers.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Health to continue support for existing GP surgeries, improve services to patients by further investment in existing GP surgeries, and to halt its plans to promote the use of commercial companies in general practice because this risks destabilising local surgeries and threatens the comprehensive, high quality care currently received from GPs

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Philip Dunne, Official Report, 21 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 21P .]

[P000258]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Health:

The Government is investing record amounts in GP services (an increase of over 50% since 2003/04) and there are a record number of GPs (19% more than in 1997). This investment has secured major improvements in access to services and in the quality of care for people with long-term conditions. Public satisfaction with GP services is generally high.

The Government is continuing to invest in GP services. We are consulting the British Medical Association (BMA) on a £105 million package of investment in GP services for 2008-09, including some £50 million for local schemes to make services more accessible and responsive to patients and a further £50 million to improve the range and quality of clinical services.

Despite generally high levels of patient satisfaction, members of the public have told us that their number one priority for improving the NHS further would be to be able to see a GP at times that are more convenient for them, for example in the evening or at weekends. In March 2008, the BMA agreed the Government's proposals to reward surgeries that offer evening and weekend opening. PCTs are now working with GPs to agree arrangements that meet the needs of local people. In the first three months there has already been significant progress. As at September, over 51 per cent. of GP practices across England are now providing extended opening hours, and by the end of the year we expect at least half of GP practices will be offering this service to their patients.

Last autumn, the Government also announced £250 million of new investment to enable every PCT to provide a GP-led health centre—open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week—and to help tackle inequalities by establishing over 100 extra GP surgeries in areas with the fewest GPs and greatest health needs.

With the new GP health centres, one in every PCT area, patients will be able to remain registered with their own GP but may also use the services provided by the health centre if they wish. This will mean people can see a GP for a routine consultation if they are away from home or at times that their local GP practice is not open, either by booking ahead or just turning up. These services will be in addition to, not instead of, existing GPs.

There is no truth whatsoever in the suggestion that the Government is moving funding from existing GP practices in order to pay for these new services.

It is open to any provider to bid to run the GP health centres and new GP surgeries, whether it is a group of local GPs, a voluntary organisation, social enterprise or an independent provider. Allowing this wide range of potential providers to bid helps to drive up quality, innovation and value for money and to ensure that patients receive the best possible service. The early indications are that the majority of expressions of interest are coming from existing GPs and that there are a number of collaborative bids between GPs and other sectors.

We already have excellent examples of GP services and other primary and community care services throughout the country. Our aim is to ensure that all patients have universally good access to high quality services and the ability to make increased choices about the services they receive