GP surgeries in England will not be forced to extend opening hours, despite comments by prime minister Theresa May apparently blaming practices for the crisis in hospitals.
The Department of Health and NHS England have said that there will be no changes to surgeries’ existing contractual hours, following calls for clarification by the BMA.
The association was one of a number of health organisations criticising the prime minister after she stated earlier on 13 January that GPs’ failure to extend their opening hours was putting pressure on emergency medicine departments.
Ms May had further suggested that cuts to funding would be applied to surgeries that did not seek to widen opening hours.
In a letter to GPs published on 23 January BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said that the prime minister’s comments had been an unacceptable slur against general practice.
He added that he had since sought confirmation that practices would not be forced to change their hours, and that ministers had a responsibility to engage seriously with doctors in finding solutions to the challenges facing the NHS.
He said: ‘I was shocked and dismayed by media reports of the prime minister’s attacks on GPs for being a cause of the crisis in the NHS and hospital pressures – and of reports that GP practices would be required to open seven days a week or face funding cuts.
‘These reported comments made a little more than a week ago were unacceptable and a slur on the profession.’
‘GPC will not accept pushing GPs to work any longer or harder at a time when we manifestly don’t have the capacity and are unable to cope within our current hours.
‘I have spoken to NHS England and the DH and, contrary to the headlines, there will be no obligation on individual GP practices to be open for seven days, or beyond their contractual hours.
‘GPC will continue to fight for the survival of general practice and for the necessary investment for GPs to be able to do our jobs properly and provide safe, high-quality care to patients.’
The BMA, which wrote to Ms May in the wake of her comments, was backed in its warning to Government not to scapegoat GPs by organisations such as the King’s Fund, Royal College of GPs and Commons health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston.
GPs from around England also voiced their anger and disappointment at Ms May’s comments, with many suggesting that they showed the prime minister’s lack of understanding as to the extreme challenges faced by many practices.
Read Dr Nagpaul's letter
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