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Posted on 19th January 2017

Prime Minster blames GPs for A&E crisis

Theresa May has said that surgeries should provide appointments at times that are convenient for patients and not themselves.

The PM has ordered GPs to open seven days a week, and has blamed doctors who close early for the ongoing A&E crisis.

Downing Street has said that cash allocated to surgeries will be withheld until doctors can prove they offer appointments at suitable times and their patients know about them. 

Senior doctors say that most A&E departments are dangerously overcrowded and last week almost half of hospitals declared states of emergency.

GP opening hours are being blamed by the government for the pressure on A&E saying the lack of appointments give patients no alternative that to go to hospital.

A Downing Street source told The Times: “It is increasingly clear that a large number of surgeries are not providing proper out-of-hours care — and that patients are suffering as a result because they are then forced to go to A&E. It’s also bad for hospitals, who then face additional pressure on their services.”

A National Audit Office report found that almost half of surgeries close during the working day and in some areas, up to three quarters of surgeries shut on weekday afternoons.

All GPs are contracted to offer services between 8am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. However, they do not have to be open throughout these hours if they make alternative arrangements, which includes out-of-hours phone services.

Doctors claim that they need to close for training. The General Medical Council said that GPs must fit in professional development around their patients.

In a letter to The Times, Charlie Massey, the regulator’s chief executive, writes: “Our guidance for doctors says they must keep their knowledge and skills up to date . . . we do expect doctors to tailor these activities to their practice’s needs and interests.”

Family doctors have been warning that there are too few of them to keep up with the ageing population.

GPs carry out 60 million more appointments that five years ago.

Mrs May said: “I recognise, and we have acknowledged, that the NHS is under pressure.” But she insisted: “We always see increased pressures in the NHS over the winter period. That’s why in preparing for the winter period this time, £400 million was put in to ensure that winter-preparedness.”

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