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GP Appointments

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2015

3. What the average waiting time was for a GP appointment in the most recent period for which figures are available. (906955)

The latest GP survey results suggest that the majority of patients can get GP appointments at a time convenient to them, but we want to do more. We are offering 7.5 million more people evening and weekend appointments through the Prime Minister’s £100 million challenge fund. NHS England does not directly collect data for GP waiting times.

I think many people up and down the country will be surprised by the Minister’s answer, including my constituent Lynne Taylor who had a chest infection but was sent to A and E by a locum because of a lack of appointments at her GP surgery. That was done on the phone without seeing her. The A and E doctors told her that she certainly should not have been sent to A and E. Will the guarantee of a GP appointment within 48 hours help patients like Ms Taylor who need to see their own doctor? Would that not also be a big step in reducing the huge pressure on A and Es?

I hope the hon. Gentleman will be reassured to hear that, according to the latest GP survey, 87% of patients in Southport and Formby clinical commissioning group were able to get an appointment or to see somebody they wanted to see at an appropriate and convenient time. It is important to note that Labour’s 48-hour target did not work. From 2007 to 2010, the percentage of patients who were able to get an appointment within the 48-hour target actually fell.

Order. Let me explain to the Minister, which I have done several times, that we have a lot of business to get through. We need answers to questions and no more than that.

Last month, I contacted one of my excellent GPs in Chesham concerning the waiting time for one of my constituents. In his response, he reminded me that Buckinghamshire patients receive less funding per head than almost anywhere in the country. What can be done to address that inequality, so that my constituents can benefit from the same level of funding for services and treatment enjoyed by other parts of the country?

As my right hon. Friend will be aware, the funding formula is now reviewed regularly. That is done independently and is free from political interference. Looking at areas such as hers, where there are a lot of frail and elderly patients, is now more paramount in the funding formula. In the future, I am sure that the funding formula will better reflect local health care needs.

One in four patients now wait a week or longer to see a GP. Last week’s official NHS survey revealed that almost 1 million people had to turn to A and E because they could not get a GP appointment. Will the Minister accept that his Government have made it harder to see a GP, and have caused the A and E crisis in the process? Will he respond to Labour’s call for GPs to be placed in major A and Es to help ease the pressure?

I do not think that people wanting to see their GP was at all helped by the previous Labour Government’s disastrous decision to contract out the GP out-of-hours service. Many patients are now struggling to receive appointments in the evenings and at weekends. The previous Government also broke the link with family doctors. To reassure the hon. Lady, the latest GP patient survey results suggest that less than 2% of patients who want GP appointments have to resort to walk-in centres or A and E departments. Under this Government, we have put in place an extra 1,000 GPs.