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Weekend GP surgeries opening 'unachievable' in Hampshire
10:10am Tuesday 22nd October 2013 in News
FOUR out of five GP surgeries in south Hampshire are shut all weekend – making David Cameron’s pledge of seven-day opening “unachievable”, doctors’ leaders say.
Just 24 of around 120 surgeries open on Saturdays, but they offer appointments for just a few hours that day, a study shows.
And not one across South Hampshire is open on both Saturday and Sunday – the Prime Minister’s aim.
Now the Family Doctor Association, which represents around 1,000 practices across the country, has accused Mr Cameron of promising an “undeliverable service”.
Dr Peter Swinyard, the organisation’s chairman, said: “The announcement isn’t realistic within the resources that we have in the health service.
“It’s not realistic to talk about GP services opening from 8am until 8pm, seven days a week – that’s the bottom line.”
Earlier this month, Mr Cameron unveiled plans to encourage GP surgeries to open over the weekend – for 12 hours each day – to make appointments easier for patients.
The Daily Echo analysed around 120 local practices, part of a study carried out by The Guardian newspaper, and found just 24 open for part of Saturdays: Seven are in Southampton – out of a total of 42, five are on the Isle of Wight out of 23 and 12 are in the rest of south Hampshire – out of 55.
Dr Steve Townsend, Chair of NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “There is a shortage of doctors entering general practice at the moment, and Southampton practices are finding recruitment difficult. An increasing number of GPs are women and work part-time; they contribute enormously to patient care. Increasing the opening hours at weekends would mean practices would have to reduce their weekday appointments.
"Some practices offer booked appointments at weekends. In my own practice, for example, we offer appointments on Saturday mornings and these are very popular with people of working age.
"The Adelaide practice offers a seven day a week 8am-8pm service. Opening a surgery at weekends does not appear to be a priority for the public, nor is it the most effective use of limited resources.
"However, we are looking at the longer term for the city and the need for more fundamental changes to the way primary care is structured and delivered. This may include a more flexible approach to opening hours across the week, but it looks challenging as things stand and is dependent upon sustainable resourcing and workforce plans.
"We are keen to hear from members of the public about their preferences. People can get in touch with us via our website, southamptoncityccg.nhs.uk.”
There are 34 GP practices in Southampton.
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