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Tory plans for same day GP access for elderly come under fire

Doctors’ leaders question how these will be delivered and funded

Caroline White

Monday, 13 April 2015

The BMA has questioned how Conservative Party plans to guarantee same day GP access for the over 75s, if elected next month, will be funded and delivered.

The Party’s election manifesto is not due to be published until later this week, but the Conservatives have committed to same day GP access for the over 75s and for access for all at weekends and evenings by 2020.

Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, said that it was important to ensure older people get the level of care they need and deserve. “However, we need to be wary of promises made in the run-up to an election that are without clear plans as to how these would be funded and delivered.”

He added: "Putting in place a simplistic age limit for services runs the risk of distorting clinical priorities. It cannot be right for a 76 year old with a minor ailment to get preferential care at the expense of a 70 year old with a more serious condition.”

He said there was “a question mark” over whether GPs have the ability to deliver same day appointments when many GP practices are “under intense pressure from rising workload and falling resources, and without the capacity to meet current demands.”

He said that the recent BMA survey of 15, 560 GPs found that 94% felt their workload was having a detrimental effect on the care they deliver.

“Promises of extra investment are encouraging, but must take into account that it takes five to eight years to train a new GP and at present many areas of the country are facing a shortage of GPs, with practices unable to fill GP vacancies,” he insisted.

"The BMA has been continuously calling for all new policies to be based on rigorous evidence. We need to ensure, especially during an election period, that all political pledges to the electorate are properly thought out and can in practice be delivered,” he emphasised.

The Party has also committed to a minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8 billion over the next five years.

The pledge, announced in an article in The Guardian on Saturday by George Osborne, follows the announcement of a £30 billion funding gap by the end of the decade, identified by NHS Chief Simon Stevens.

Simon Stevens suggested that £22 billion could be found from efficiency savings and reform, leaving a shortfall of £8 billion.

Mr Osborne said that the money would come from a strong economy.

“We can make this commitment because we’ve got the track record and a plan to grow our economy. New figures, confirmed by the Treasury, show that in the five years from 2010-11 to 2015-16 we are set to deliver a real-terms increase of £7.3bn. And we have done that at the same time as halving the deficit as a share of GDP and cutting income tax for 26 million people. In the next parliament we will continue with the same balanced approach,” he wrote.

RCGP Chair Dr Maureen Baker said that hard pressed family doctors would welcome any announcement to improve access, but only “as long as commitments to extra funding for general practice and thousands more GPs are actually delivered.”

She continued: “We must also ensure that those patients needing speedy access are able to get it, whatever their age, whilst also recognising that for some older people with long-term conditions it will be their ability to see the doctor of their choice that will be more important.” 

She added that general practice urgently needed more funding – 11% of the NHS budget – and at least 8,000 more GPs in England over the next parliament to ensure that all patients can see a GP when they need to and that they receive the care they deserve.

“Pledges and promises might win votes, but we need substance, not sound bites, and the stakes are too high for politicians not to deliver,” she said.

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