Contact details

contact email address

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Labour and the Lib Dems clash over GP figures

The Labour party are claiming this morning that some 600 fewer GP surgeries across England are open in the evening and at weekends compared to the time of the last election, new figures today show.

Labour say the figures underline the true scale of the 'Tory-led Government’s NHS crisis' – with patients forced to turn to A&E as they struggle to secure a slot to see their doctor on the first working day after the Easter break, which saw doctors and NHS England express fresh concern about GP access and the resulting pressure on A&E.

Meanwhile, Labour say, nearly two million more patients are unhappy with GP opening hours compared to three years ago as they lose access to evening and weekend appointments, according to new analysis of government statistics that flies in the face of repeated promises by David Cameron to support practices opening for seven days. Labour today unveils its new poster on the NHS depicting a patient queue at a GP surgery and releases a full document on the declining GP services since 2010.

David Cameron first promised seven-day opening for GP surgeries in the Conservative manifesto before the last general election in May 2010, but once in Government promptly cut back Labour’s scheme for evening and weekend GP opening. He repeated the pledge on last week’s ITV debate, claiming he wanted GPs to open “all the way through the week.” However, Government figures show 590 fewer GP practices now able to offer patients appointments on weekday evenings, Saturdays or Sundays, compared with 2010.

Labour say they're proposing to extended hours scheme enabled GP evening and weekend opening at 77 per cent of surgeries by July 2009. Yet, David Cameron cut the scheme’s funding from £3.01 to £1.90 for every registered patient and removed the 48-hour appointment guarantee from the NHS Constitution – labelling it “no longer a priority”. The figures form part of a wider briefing on the Government’s primary care record, The Doctor can’t see you now, covering appointment delays, a growing GP recruitment crisis and Labour’s commitment to hundreds more GPs in every English region.

Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, said: "Today, across the country, people will face the frustration of joining a queue to see their GP – in some places the lines will go out of the surgery door. After five years of David Cameron, patients at hundreds of surgeries can no longer get a GP appointment when they need one. At the last Election, he promised to open GP surgeries seven days a week but the reality is that millions more patients are unhappy with opening hours. It is now harder to get an appointment from Monday to Friday too."

Mr Burnham continued: "One of Cameron’s first acts as Prime Minister was to cut Labour’s extended opening hours scheme and scrap our guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours. If David Cameron gets back in, his extreme spending cuts mean he can’t protect the NHS and the queues outside GP surgeries will get even worse. The NHS needs Labour’s better plan for 8,000 more GPs, paid for with a £2.5 billion a year Time to Care fund, and guaranteed appointments within 48 hours."

New Labour NHS poster - based on Tory 1978 'Labour isn't  working  poster'

Responding the Lib Dems say that Labour's GP figures are out of date and conveniently ignore the £50 million GP Access Fund delivered by Liberal Democrats in government. Commenting on Labour's report over access to GP surgeries, the Liberal Democrat General Election spokesperson Lord Scriven said: "There are now 9,500 more doctors and 7,500 more nurses than when Labour left power and the NHS budget has increased by £12.7bn under the Liberal Democrats in Government. The Liberal Democrats are the only party prepared to commit to spending the £8bn extra the NHS says it needs to survive – almost three times the extra funding Labour is promising."

"On opening hours, Labour are out-of-date. Their figures are from 2013 and conveniently ignore the impact of the £50m GP Access Fund, delivered by the Liberal Democrats in government last year, which has supported 1,147 practices in extending their hours. Perhaps if Labour had invested extra money in the NHS then, rather than wasting £12.4bn on their failed NHS supercomputer, people would take them seriously now. But until Ed Miliband matches our commitment to meeting the £8bn shortfall in the NHS budget, they do not deserve a hearing." Lord Scriven added.