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NHS: wriggling May appeals to GPs

THE NHS is still in crisis and Theresa May is still in denial. NHS professionals have been speaking out with one voice, clamouring for extra money, and opposition parties have piled on the pressure in the House of Commons in the hope of persuading the government to take proper action. Theresa May’s Government has shown no sign of being moved.

Until now – but the latest government recipe for improvement still includes no extra money. Instead, the Government has told GPs to open for longer hours – 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. If GPs don’t extend their hours, they will lose government funding. What a ridiculous move!

Yes, it is true that it is difficult to get an appointment with a GP. Yes, it is true that sometimes means that a condition spirals to the point where a person will go to A&E in despair of being able to find treatment elsewhere. But why is it difficult to get a GP appointment? It is because of the volume of patients wanting an appointment. Making GPs open longer hours will not increase the number of patients they can see. It would just change the hours over which the GPs see the patients.

The only way to get more patients to see GPs is to provide more GPs – and that would require more investment in the NHS, not government finds for working at a safe level of load rather than working so many hours that safety is jeopardised. And although A&E departments are packed, it is not the patients that could be treated by a GP who are holding up the system. The trolleys in the corridors are occupied by people waiting for admission to a hospital ward and not getting there because there are no empty beds.

The official government statement came from Downing Street rather than the Department for Health – revealing that it is just a cynical move to blame sections of the NHS for their own underfunding. A government spokesperson said, “a large number of surgeries are not providing the access that patients need” and “patients are suffering as a result because they are then forced to go to A&E to seek care.”

The statement came at the end of a week when it was revealed that four out of every ten hospitals in England had declared a major alert in the first week of 2017 – which is an NHS warning that the level of patient need is so high that patient safety cannot be guaranteed. Did Theresa May not notice? Does she not read the papers?

The NHS is underfunded – and having to pay out huge sums to the private companies which operate the PFI deals that so many Trusts had to enter into in order to refurbish hospitals or build new ones. No pun intended, but the latest attempt to get GPs to act as mini A&E departments is really only putting a sticking plaster on the problem.

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