GPs Against Opening Practices at the Weekend
In an effort to reduce the number of people heading to A&E, the Government has encouraged GP weekend opening. Practices within the same area have been urged to group together in order to share the weekend duties amongst them, making sure that at least one is open each weekend. However, these plans have been met with an almost entirely negative response from the GPs, the majority of whom are very much against it.
Trials have shown that the proposed scheme has its merits. The results showed that among 34 practices taking part in the scheme in Central London, the number of patients going to A&E dropped by 8-10%. Nevertheless, GPs say that weekend opening hours are not the answer to patient care problems.
The British Medical Association surveyed 15,560 GPs and found that 94% were against their own practice opening every day, while only 2% were in favour of the idea and the remainder were unsure. 64% were not happy to form networks with other surgeries to ensure that at least one would be open each weekend.
The major problem doctors have with the seven-day service plan is that they already feel overworked, with 93% saying that their overwhelming workload has negatively affected patient care – a situation which would only be exacerbated by extending their services to weekends. Many GPs have expressed the view that what is needed to improve patient care is longer consultations, which would give them more time to properly treat patients than the current standard ten-minute slot.
“GPs want to provide better services and spend more time with their patients, especially the increasing number of older people who often have a range of multiple health needs that require intensive, coordinated care,” says Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee. “Unfortunately, the landmark poll highlights that GPs’ ability to care for patients is being seriously undermined by escalating workload, inadequate resourcing and unnecessary paperwork.
“While there is a willingness from GPs to look at offering extended hours, more than nine in ten GPs do not feel that their practice can provide blanket seven day services when GPs are struggling to provide even basic care to their patients. GPs also feel it is more important to provide longer consultations.”