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Spend NHS surplus on out-of-hours, say primary care leaders

Published on 14/03/08 at 03:37pm

Primary care leaders have called for some of the predicted billions in the NHS budget surplus to be spent on supporting the new GP out-of-hours agreement.

GPs across the UK recently voted to accept new working hours that will see surgeries open on Saturday mornings and after 6.30pm on weekdays, but it was reluctantly done and many felt the government bullied them into the deal.

The NHS is forecasting a surplus of £1.8 billion when its financial year ends this month, and the NHS Alliance is calling for investment in services they say are necessary to make the new out-of-hours scheme worthwhile.

The NHS Alliance, a group made up of GPs and other primary care professionals, has stressed that although many GPs will be offering additional surgeries, the facilities they depend on may not be available.

It says facilities for collection and analysis of blood tests and many diagnostic services are often accessible only during normal office hours, which will inconvenience people with an evening appointment who have to return the next day to access the right service.

The Alliance also says some of the surplus could be used to support extended hours for the full primary care team, including nurses and clinicians other than doctors.

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said: "A significant part of the NHS surplus should be released to support extended access.

"At the same time, the health service must now make sure that primary care trusts and GP practices are allowed to make their own decisions, in the light of local circumstances and local need, as to how the new arrangements are implemented. There is no 'one size fits all' solution to access and we should not pretend there is."

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