Prime minister David Cameron has announced a new voluntary contract for GPs that will extend their services to seven days a week.
The announcement has already met with opposition from the Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association, with the BMA saying that it was not discussed with them.
Cameron said: “I don’t think anyone is happy with the GP contract, so this new contract will focus on making sure that people in our country can get access to a GP on a seven-days-a-week basis, 8am to 8pm, that’s what we want to see.”
The Department of Health added that the new contract will be offered to practices and federations covering at least 30,000 patients on a phased basis, starting with groups of GPs that are “most ready to work in this new way”, and will build on the seven-day access pilot schemes funded by the prime minister’s Challenge Fund.
The £150 million Challenge Fund has allowed some areas to trial different methods of providing extended access, but weekend services have had to be scaled back in some of these areas due to a lack of demand.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: “The Government must learn from its own pilot schemes where there have been a number of examples of weekend appointments having little or no pick up by patients. These proposals could waste precious NHS resources and divert staff and funds from overstretched core GP services.”