LABOUR vowed tonight to end long waits to see a GP, promising all patients an appointment within 48 hours.
Ed Miliband sought to put the health service at the centre of his election campaign, describing growing struggles to see a family doctor as a “scandal”.
Earlier this year, an official survey that one in nine patients in Southampton are unable to book a slot at a surgery when they need one.
Patients are being turned away on thousands of occasions each year in the city, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
Now Mr Miliband has promised a new “GP guarantee”, giving all patients contacting their local surgery the right to:
• Consult a doctor or a nurse on the same day.
• Get an appointment on the same day, if they need to be seen quickly.
• An appointment within 48 hours.
• Book an appointment more than 48 hours ahead, with the GP of their choice.
Mr Miliband said: “People remember the promises David Cameron made at the last election, the airbrushed posters and the three letters he said he cared about most: NHS.
“But we all know the reality now - the broken promises.
“He promised that people should be able to see their GP “24/7”, but a quarter of the public now say they can’t get an appointment in the same week.”
Mr Miliband said Labour would plough an extra £100m a year into family doctor practices, which could pay for an additional three million GP appointments.
The money would come from scrapping “unnecessary administration and legal fees”, by removing the threat of EU competition law, and by axing “bureaucracy”.
A GP appointment within 48 hours would reinstate a guarantee that was scrapped in June 2010 because, the incoming Coalition argued, it had “no clinical justification”.
It was a view backed by many GPs, who warned the most seriously-ill patients were at risk as appointments were grabbed by people who did not need them quickly.