Health Secretary Alan Johnson has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to increasing GP out-of-hours availability as he claimed current opening times are an “anomaly”.
And he said GPs have too much of a “nine-to-five” attitude and insisted they must work more evenings and weekends to improve patient services.
It comes after controversy over the changes to out-of-hours care in England, which came into force in 2004.
That saw around 90% of family doctors opting out of providing treatment outside of normal hours.
But Mr Johnson said he will work with GPs and the British Medical Association (BMA) to provide patients with a health service that is “fit for the 21st century”.
He said: “I think there is a bit of an anomaly that there is half-day closing on Wednesdays and Thursdays and you can’t get to see a GP after you leave work.
“We do need to address that.”
He agreed there is too much of a “nine-to-five” culture among GPs, but added: “Many GPs’ practices are addressing that and opening on a Saturday morning. We want to see that more widespread.”
However, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the situation is of the Government’s own making, and said ministers are “blaming GPs instead of themselves”.
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Related story: BMA warning over extended hours
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“Totally ludicrous, unless of course the government are going to totally equip these places” – Name and address supplied
“It is erroneous to suppose that GPs only carry out 8-hour days. The reality is quite different. Is the government going to reinstate the monies surrendered at the beginning of the new contract? In excess of 80% of those responding to the recent survey are happy with the hours. The government clearly is not listening. The government face a considerable battle over the issue. GPs are often the lynch pin of out of hours services in any event. The government has seen fit to deny cost of living rises in the last two years, staff will be difficult to come by if this goes ahead” – Name and address supplied
“Not without a fight from the GPs. They are already working hard. In theory my GPs work 9 to 5 but they do not, they sometimes stay until 8pm” – Name and address supplied