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CBI calls on GPs to be less 'rigid'

The CBI has added the voice of employers to the growing chorus calling for more flexible GP opening hours.

They describe the current 'family doctor service' as 'outdated and rigid' and say it is 'placing an unnecessary burden on employees and businesses' and 'resulting in millions of lost working days and affecting people's health.'

An Ipsos MORI survey commissioned for the CBI's report 'Just what the patient ordered: better GP services' shows almost one in three adults (31%) finds it fairly or very difficult to get an appointment at a time convenient to them.

The employers' organisation also cite what they describe as 'independent research by Boots' showing that 'some 3.5 million working days are lost each year because of time spent at the doctor's'. This is apparently more than four times as much as was lost last year to industrial action.

Complaints about GPs' out-of-hours services have risen sharply in recent years, with Medical Protection Society figures showing that a total of 30 new complaints a day in the UK in 2003 - the last full year under the old system - had risen to 100 a day by 2006.

Moreover, the DoH General Practice Workload Survey revealed that the NHS work of the average GP in England hed been cut by about seven hours a week since the new GP contract was introduced in 2004, with doctors seeing fewer patients although spending longer with them.

The CBI calls for a thorough overhaul of family doctor services, including:

• Making it easier for people to switch GP

• Patients being able to register at more than one practice, allowing working people to access GP services near their homes and near work

• More primary care services being made available over the counter from qualified pharmacists or in-store nurses, or in walk-in centres in train stations and elsewhere.

More controversially — and this might be their major interest - they want 'new providers' to enter the market to, for instance deliver health services in areas with too few doctors and in deprived neighbourhoods. They also want funding of GP practices to be 'dictated by the choices made by patients, enabling the best providers to flourish and requiring poorer providers to improve or close' — a strategy which is unlikely to address the problme they rightly identify of too few GP practices in areas which already suffer from economic or social problems.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: 'Official figures show 10 million adults in England alone cannot book an appointment with a GP more than 48 hours in advance. It's time there was real and fundamental reform with the needs of the patient coming first.

'But this is not just about the cost to the taxpayer. A healthy workforce is as important to employers as a workforce with the skills needed to compete. An employee who isn't there because they have to wait around in a GP's surgery is a lost order, a missed opportunity or an unanswered phone call.

'Good employers want employees to look after their health. But they don't want to pay for a health service that isn't flexible enough to cope with the modern world.'

Page created on September 24th, 2007

Page updated on December 1st, 2009