Three-week wait to see your GP as practices cut weekend and evening hours
Half of England’s PCTs reported a decrease in the number of GP surgeries offering care
outside normal working hours last year

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UPDATED:

16:24 GMT, 25 July 2012

Labour contacted 91 of Englands 151 PCTs and found that 56% of them reported a decrease in the number of surgeries offering extended opening hours.

Labour contacted 91 of England's 151 PCTs – 56% of them reported a decrease in the number of surgeries offering extended opening hours

Patients are being forced to wait for as long as three weeks to see their GP after practices are reducing their evening and weekend appointments, Labour said.

There has been a 5.7% drop in the number of GP surgeries offering appointments out of normal working hours, according to research conducted by the party.

Last year half of England’s Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) reported a decrease in the number of GP surgeries offering care outside normal working hours.

The figures suggest that people are
turning to accident and emergency wards for help for their ailments
after one million extra visits to emergency units were recorded last
year, compared to 2009/10.

Shadow
health secretary Andy Burnham accused David Cameron of breaking his
pre-election pledge that all patients would be able to see their local
GPs until “8pm seven days a week”.

Mr Burnham said: 'David Cameron made a lot of promises on the NHS and one by one we are seeing these promises broken.

'The combination of the financial challenge with the biggest ever reorganisation of the NHS has served to severely destabilise the NHS at a critical moment.

'We can demonstrate that it is having a direct impact on standards of patient care.'

He said that more than 1,300 patients have contacted the party with concerns about the NHS.

Of these, around 50 have complained about their local GP services, with many reporting that it takes them between two and three weeks to see their doctor.

Andy Burnham said Cameron broke his pre-election pledge that all patients would be able to see their local GPs until '8pm seven days a week'

Andy Burnham said Cameron broke his pre-election pledge that all patients would be able to see their local GPs until '8pm seven days a week'

Labour contacted 91 of England’s 151 PCTs and found that 56% of them reported a decrease in the number of surgeries offering extended opening hours.

The worst affected areas are Hartlepool – where 31% of surgeries are operating a reduced service – and Newcastle and Haringey PCTs which both reported that a quarter of practices are reducing opening hours.

The research, dubbed The Doctor Won’t See You Now, also found that accident and emergency wards in 46 NHS trusts are not meeting the maximum waiting time of four hours.

Mr Burnham said the data showed that 12 NHS walk-in centres have closed down across England, adding: 'This all builds the pressure on GP appointments.'

Labour are calling for the Government to investigate why GP opening hours are declining and demanded a halt to the closure of NHS walk-in centres pending a review.

Mr Burnham wants ministers to address why accident and emergency wards are not meeting the four hour target.

He is also calling on the Government to reintroduce the national survey of GPs opening hours.

'PCTs have been allowed to be dismantled before the new structures are in place,' he said.

'What that has brought is huge distraction and a huge loss of focus on what matters. Coupled with the demise of the national survey, we think the NHS eye has gone off the ball – this isn’t being driven any more at a national level.

'Questions do need to be asked about GP-led commissioning if it is leading to decisions that are good for the profession but not good for the public. I’m not certain that is what’s happening but we need to ask that question of the Government. Are decisions being taken that take pressure off GPs but in the end start to inconvenience the public

'We need a people-centred NHS that is there when people need it rather than one that works towards its own convenience.'

Labour’s shadow health minister Jamie Reed added: 'Accompanied with the walk-in centre closures, we have to ask the question why don’t ministers want to know what’s happening on the ground

'We are seeing a shrinking NHS with patients’ ability to access it diminishing and a deteriorating NHS service for old and young patients alike.'

Royal College of Nursing executive director of nursing and service delivery Janet Davies said: 'To deliver a truly patient-centred service people need to know that they can access a full range of health services locally within their GP practice at a convenient time. These findings are of concern and patients need to know why appointments are being restricted in this way.

'The irony is that at a time when the NHS should be trying its hardest to keep people out of hospital, and helping them in the community, pressure is being piled on already overstretched hospitals.

'Today’s findings add weight to our concerns that the NHS is returning to the days of treating patients in corridors or areas not designed for care.

'This comes back to the way that Trusts in England are going about reaching their 20 billion savings target. We know that they are slashing thousands of jobs which is having a serious effect on patient care. The Government needs to get a grip to stop these cuts from happening.'