Ministers have 'limited understanding' of pressures on GPs despite seven-day NHS plan

Posted On: 
11th January 2017

Health ministers do not fully grasp the pressures facing GP doctors as they push to make them available seven days a week, a damning new report has said.

The National Audit Office has issued a stark warning over GP services
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The Government’s official watchdog said there was “insufficient assurance” that funding and staff are meeting the increasing demand at surgeries.

Ministers hope to provide evening and weekend access to general practices and to increase the number of doctors by 5,000 before 2020.

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But the National Audit Office said they had failed to evaluate “the cost- effectiveness of their proposals” and were not providing value for money from existing services.

It said the plans risked more GPs quitting, greater challenges in recruiting new doctors and an increase in part-time working.

A summary of the report said: “According to the NAO, the Department has limited understanding of the pressures in general practice.

“Clinical commissioning groups should be better placed than NHS England to identify emerging problems with access.

“However, some commissioners currently have a limited understanding of whether services are meeting people’s needs and have limited capacity to manage any significant service changes, such as a practice handing in notice on its contract.

“There are risks to both the levels of access and cost of services if there is insufficient assurance that funding and staff are being supplied in line with demand.”

NAO boss Amyas Morse added: "The Department and NHS England have set some challenging objectives for improving access to general practice, have increased available funding and sought to make allocations to local areas fairer.

“They are, however, seeking to improve access despite not having evaluated the cost- effectiveness of their proposals and without having consistently provided value for money from the existing services.

“Without a more co-ordinated approach and stronger incentives to secure the desired results, the NHS is unlikely to get optimal value for money.”