Concern over 7-day GP plan

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A Fylde coast GP today warned more cash will need to be invested if Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to open GP surgeries seven days a week is to become reality.

Fleetwood practitioner Dr Mark Spencer, who spearheaded a failed £3m bid by five port surgeries to begin such a programme in the town last year, believes the £100m pledged by David Cameron at this week’s Conservative Party Conference will not be enough to cover the whole country.

Mr Cameron has promised “many more” family doctors after the 2015 general election in order to deliver a pledge of extended-hours access to a GP seven days a week for every NHS patient in England.

But Dr Spencer, based at Mountview Practice, at Fleetwood Health and Wellbeing Centre, on Dock Street, said: “It’s good that additional money has been announced to fund that, but I have my doubts whether it’s anywhere near enough.

“If it’s £3m to fund Fleetwood what will it be for the whole of the UK? It’ll be a lot more than £100m.

“However, if the resources become available it’s something that we will deliver.”

The Gazette reported in January how doctors in Fleetwood had made a £3m bid for Government funding to provide seven-day-a-week GP services for the town – but the bid was unsuccessful.

And Coun Bill Barrow, health spokesman for Fleetwood Town Council, believes there could be more cost-effective ways of allowing patients better access to their GPs than the Government proposals.

He said: “The first thing is the cost of it and having sufficient GPs to provide that kind of cover. It’s a good idea but I’m not sure how practical it is.”

Coun Barrow added an extension of a telephone triage system, which currently operates in the port from Monday to Friday, would be a better way for money to be spent.

He said: “The triage system can feed them through to the appropriate GP who will ring them back within a set time to discuss what the problem is.

“That seems to be a pretty good way of dealing with it which is probably more cost-effective than having somebody at the surgery all the time.”

Coun Barrow also questioned the willingness of GPs to work weekend shifts.

However, Dr Spencer said: “I disagree with Bill there.

“There are doctors that are comfortable working weekends. None of us want to work seven days a week but there are folks that would happily work Saturday and Sunday, and rather have a Wednesday and Thursday off just like any other workforce.”