The Health Secretary has added his voice to the call for more flexible GP opening hours.
In his first major speech as health secretary delivered at Toynbee Hall eralier this month, Alan Johnson, pictured, promised to 'break the links between lack of wealth and poor health: giving everyone the chance to contribute fully to society, whether they are born in a council estate or on a country estate.'
He identified doctors' availability as a key part of this. 'We need more doctors in the most disadvantaged areas: not just treating disease, but actively promoting better health,' he said, going on: 'we need doctors' surgeries to be open at times which suit the patients rather than the practice. In a time of relative full employment, it is an anomaly that doctors' surgeries open as the nation starts work and close when it finishes.
'We should look more closely at helping people get access to GP services nearer their place of work as well as at home. And more patients should be able to see a GP at the weekend. I also feel that half day closing, which survives in many practices, is a little incongruous in the 21st Century.
' Third, we need to ensure that there are more routes into primary care, including high street pharmacies, sports centres and walk in centres. The greater the number of outlets, the better the chance we will deliver services at a time and place which suits the patient.
'Fourth, we should ensure that more of the primary care workforce, including specialist nurses, physios, social care workers etc, are able to take a lead in providing care for patients.'
As well as opening hours and the general importance of health promotion, Johnson picked up other concerns of the Men's Health Forum including the male suicide rate, the mental health of men and the treatment of black men in particular and geneder equality in access to services.
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