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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The art of delivery

The difficulty of actually delivering on your promises even when you have a majority were brought into stark contrast yesterday with an admission by the Welsh Government that their commitment to extending GP opening hours to evenings and weekends looks further away than ever. This became clear as it emerged that less than a third are currently opening for their full contracted hours.

Figures published for the first time showed that just 31% of surgeries met the “core” opening hours of 8am to 6.30pm on weekdays without closing for lunch.

They show an improvement on the previous year – which were also revealed for the first time yesterday – when just 19% of surgeries met the core hours.

But 19% of surgeries still closed for half a day at least once a week last year.

This is a shocking admission of failure by anybody's standards and needs to be addressed. It also seems clear that the UK Government is not the only administration facing opposition to their health policies from GPs.

BMA Wales said that closing for lunch and half a day in the week was not unreasonable, and that the core patients using GP surgeries did not want evening appointments. This is despite the fact that extending GP surgery opening hours was one of the key pledges of Labour’s 2011 Assembly election campaign.

The Labour manifesto, 'Standing up for Wales', said: “Because of the central importance of accessible GP care services we will require GPs to make surgeries more accessible to working people, so that they can access local GP services in the evenings and Saturday mornings.”

The Western Mail reports however that yesterday’s figures show that 149 GP practices in Wales (31%) were open throughout the day during the core hours of 8am to 6.30pm in 2011, a 12% increase from 2010; 229 practices (48%) were open 95% or more of core hours, 11% higher than 2010; 12% of practices opened for additional hours in 2011.

There is still a long way to go for the Health Minister.
Most people forget, if they ever knew, that GPs are not NHS employees but independent contractors. Although some work in NHS premises, many own their own buildings and single or group GP practices are small businesses.
This is why every time the Government want GPs to take on a new task an extension to the contract is required and of course we the taxpayer has to pay.
Incidentally many GPs have already done very nicely by using NHS funding – quite legally – to improve buildings and businesses that they own.
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