Commenting on media reports that Gordon Brown would consider extending GP opening hours, Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP Committee, said:
“We are always open to discussions and I will be writing to Gordon Brown about his reported statements on access to general practice. I will be reminding him of the reasons his government agreed the new contract. It was to address the severe workforce shortage and low morale among GPs. Recruitment is improving but we still have a long way to go. There has not been a significant increase in whole-time GPs since the new contract, although we do have more part-time GPs.
“Longer opening hours is a workforce issue. Family doctors have already pulled out all the stops to deliver top-quality services to patients under the new contract, but their work is intensive and much more complex than in the past as more procedures previously done in hospitals transfer to GP surgeries. There would have to be a significant increase in the number of GPs, practice nurses, and all the other practice staff, to cover longer opening times, along with all the back-up diagnostic services needed to make general practice work efficiently.
“I look forward to meeting Mr Brown to discuss these issues. As primary care organisations are responsible for out-of-hours services, no doubt they too will be involved.”