Can’t get a doctors appointment?

October 21, 2007

I don’t know about your surgery, but mine operates an appointment only system and it can take several days to get one, and up to 30 minutes hanging on the phone to actually get to speak to the receptionist at all. That may be about to change as The Health Minister, Lord Ara Darzi, has proposed a three year plan where he wants more than 50 per cent of practices in England to extend their opening hours.

The Health Minister is also proposing to set up 150 large, GP-led practices that will be open seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm. They will be situated in easily accessible locations offering a range of services including walk-in services. He said funding would be available but if existing practices refused to open extended hours other providers would be commissioned. Can’t quite imagine what ‘other providers’ means; is he thinking of setting up freelance surgeries, rather like the ‘walk in’ doctors you can consult at mainline stations in London? Except they are all private and although you can see a doctor immediately, you usually want to see your bank manager afterwards.

It sounds a bit confused to me, as he is also saying there will be an increasing proportion of the NHS payments made to GP practices but that these are going to be linked to their success in attracting patients. So they want the doctors to have more flexible hours, offer the ability to book advance appointments and be able to see a GP within 48 hours – none of which they can manage with their existing patient lists in my area – but they are expected to do it only if they also have an increase in patient numbers. Paying them more to attract new patients doesn’t exactly help the existing ones does it?


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