Not enough doctors in Gloucester to cover extra hours warn GPs
DOCTORS have been told to open for longer and on Saturdays by the prime minister.
But many surgeries in Gloucester claim they are ahead of the game – and professionals doubt whether there are enough doctors to extend those hours.
David Cameron said the Coalition Government will make £50million available to roll out nine pilot projects to allow surgeries to open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week to "fit in with work and family life".
Alan Mawby, a director of the Gloucester Health Access Centre in Eastgate Street, Gloucester, which is run by the NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said it already provides the service Mr Cameron wants – but doubts there are enough doctors to allow more surgeries to open for more hours.
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"We are already open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year," he said. "If you fell ill on Christmas Eve, you could come here on Christmas Day.
"We have been doing this for around four years.
"We have been able to find a doctor for Christmas Day and we don't have too much difficulty finding doctors for unsocial hours.
"We have a combination of salaried doctors and locums and they are all local. But if all practices in the city were to open for similar hours to us, it would be difficult – there needs to be enough doctors prepared to work those sort of hours."
He said many GPs who work more conventional hours often work late.
Glevum Way Surgery in Abbeymead is open until 8pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and opens six days a week from 8am, and closes at 10.30am on Saturdays.
Matson Lane Surgery is only open for extra hours – 6.30pm to 7.30pm – on Mondays. It's run by Gloucestershire Care Services.
After the out-of-hours GP service was shaken up almost 10 years ago, it meant family doctors didn't have to cover weekends and evenings.
However, many also worked for private firms which were contracted to cover the unsocial hours work.
Rosamond Roughton, director of commissioning development for NHS England said: "Last year, we launched work to explore with health professionals how best to extend seven-day working across a greater range of NHS services.
"Although the initial focus has been on hospital services, a number of local clinical leaders have already started to explore how to extend seven-day working to other services, including GP services.
"We know that access to primary care is one of the areas where the public want to see improvements.
"We set this out in our call to action for general practice in August, and I have already heard of some great ideas from practices around the country about how to better meet the needs of their local communities.
"This announcement will be a great stimulus for turning these ideas into action."
● Hucclecote Surgery was closed yesterday for normal surgery work, for influenza jabs – it was seeing 20 patients every five minutes.
A spokeswoman there said she was not aware of a shortage of influenza vaccine.