Portsmouth doctors sound warning on seven-day cover

A GP checks a patient's blood pressure
A GP checks a patient's blood pressure
Janine Andrade,  Siobhan Edwards-Bannon and Zoe Boxhall with the pupils learning about the human skeleton .
Picture : Habibur Rahman (171637-3)

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A SEVEN-day GP working week will not work unless more doctors are recruited.

That’s the message from doctors in the Portsmouth area, who have spoken out over government plans to ensure 8am-to-8pm access to GP practices all week, by 2020.

But as reported in The News, doctors have said they are struggling with current workloads as more GPs are retiring and less people are going into the profession.

The £100m plan, which will start from April next year, also said that patients will have a named GP to ensure continuity of care.

Dr Jon Price, a GP at the Osborn Road Practice in Southsea, said: ‘Both main political parties want to give the public what they ask for – their friendly, familiar GP available 24/7.

‘This at a time when there is very little extra money to pay for it and a serious shortage of GPs nationally to deliver it.

‘We understand the importance of continuity of care and reasonable access, but I for one fail to see how the government’s proposal can be implemented with the current workforce.

‘In the long term we need more GPs and if and when they are recruited, then one could look at extending the work they do.’

This view was echoed by Dr David Chilvers, a GP at Waterside Medical Centre in Gosport. He said: ‘GPs are an extremely efficient and accessible way of delivering healthcare. Any way of increasing this is to be applauded.

‘However it will not work unless it is properly resourced and planned for.

‘Over the past few years the numbers of GPs has fallen way behind the number of hospital doctors and yet the workload has increased.

‘There is no point in making a GP available at 8pm if that means there is no-one to see during the day.

‘New doctors are choosing to work part-time or in more than one place which means that the named doctor system, which is a laudable aim, requires some thought and/or investment to make it truly valuable.’

The money will also pay for e-mail, phone and Skype consultations, and patients will be able to access medical records online.

Simon Haill is the manager for patient support group Portsmouth Healthwatch. He said: ‘The news sounds great, but there is a problem with recruitment and retaining GPs.

‘While we support the initiative, we can see the difficulty GPs will be facing.

‘For patients, they want to be able to see a GP and only need to tell their stories once. A named GP sounds good, but as long as the practice is talking to each other about patients then that’s not a problem.’