NAO criticises Government’s “seven-day” GP plan

The Government has failed to adequately assess the true cost of its plan to allow patients to visit their GPs every day of the week between 8am and 8pm, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.

The spending watchdog says that the controversial ‘seven-day’ plan, pushed by former Prime Minister David Cameron, will prove expensive and unsustainable in practice.

It says that the Government’s targets for the initiative have been poorly-planned and that the absolute minimum additional capacity required by the new plan would equate to £230 per appointment hour during evenings and weekends for every 1,000 registered patients.

In comparison, appointment hours during GPs’ core contracted hours (between 8am-6:30pm) would cost just £154, an NAO report suggests.

The report reads: “We have not seen evidence that the department and NHS England fully understand the effect of this commitment to extend hours on continuity of care or other arrangements for providing general medical services outside of core hours”.

The plan has also been criticised by British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who branded the Government’s pledges “irresponsible”.

He said: “To proceed without any sort of evaluation into the cost-effectiveness or the consequences of its objectives … could lead to much needed investment being spent on measures which don’t adequately meet patient needs”.

“Given that funding in general practice has failed to meet patient demand, NHS England and commissioners need to fully consider the consequences of their plans to extend access,” he added.

In its defence, the Government has said that other evidence suggests that extended GP access will ease the burden on heavily-pressured healthcare services such as A&E. It added that as many as 17million patients have already benefited from evening and weekend appointments.

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