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Access to GPs

Volume 588: debated on Tuesday 25 November 2014

The Prime Minister’s £50 million challenge fund is improving GP access for more than 3 million patients across England, helping them to get evening and weekend appointments.

Many people in South Ribble will be able to see their GPs in the evening and at weekends, thanks to a locally led initiative by Chorley and South Ribble clinical commissioning group and Greater Preston CCG to extend GP surgery opening hours this winter. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such initiatives, which will give greater flexibility to patients and alleviate pressures on other areas of the NHS, particularly A and E, are exactly what is needed in the busy winter months?

I do agree with my hon. Friend. I took my own children to an A and E department at the weekend precisely because I did not want to wait until later on to take them to see a GP. We have to recognise that society is changing and people do not always know whether the care that they need is urgent or whether it is an emergency, and making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A and E departments.

I am afraid it is yet more spin from the Government. Everybody knows that it is getting harder not easier to see a GP under this Health Secretary. He has as much as admitted today that emergency departments across England have failed to hit the Government’s A and E target for 70 consecutive weeks, and that is in part because people are struggling to get a GP appointment in the first place. Will he now get a grip on this problem, and call on his Chancellor of the Exchequer in next week’s autumn statement to use £1 billion from banking fines to help ease pressure on the NHS this winter, as the Labour party has pledged?

We will not take any lessons from the Labour party about general practice. It is not just the disastrous 2004 GP contract. The president of the Royal College of General Practitioners says that the shadow Health Secretary’s plans

“could destroy everything that is great and that our patients value about general practice and could lead to the demise of family doctoring as we know it.”