GPs 'Often Shutting During Week'

A New Investigation Has Found Many GPs Surgeries Shut For Half A Day Each Week

09.06.2014

Patients are finding it difficult to see their doctors because surgeries' opening hours are being shortened.

An investigation by the Daily Mail found over a quarter of surgeries shut for at least half a day each week, while some had a four hour period allocated for lunch breaks.

Patients that call at this time are diverted to out-of-hours services operated by third parties or hear voicemail messages telling them to call back later in the day. Health experts believe this practice may negatively affect people's perception of the NHS.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "We are surprised by these findings as they do not reflect what we are hearing from our GP members who are working ever longer hours to provide care to more and more patients."

In its study of 1,000 surgeries across the country, the Daily Mail found 275 - or 29 per cent - were shut for prolonged periods of the working week, with Wednesday and Thursday the most common days for absences.

Sheffield was the worst affected city, with two-thirds of all GPs surgeries closed on a Thursday afternoon, although some shut their doors as early as 10:20am.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "It is very worrying that some GPs are being allowed to close the surgeries for half a day per week to undertake duties other than patient care."

These views were echoed by Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern, which campaigns for better treatment for people using the NHS.

Ms Robins said that the situation is "ridiculous" considering that at any point a surgery will have ten to 12 GPs working there.
 
"Woe betide you if you get sick on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon," she said.

An NHS spokesperson said that all GP surgeries must open for their pre-agreed contract hours, adding that this point was "non-negotiable".

Expert Opinion
The results revealed by this investigation by the Daily Mail are, if correct, very worrying and clearly need to be fully investigated to assess what can be done to ensure patients are fully aware of where they need to go for the right support at the right time.

“As well as ensuring patients get the help they need as soon as possible, solving this problem should also ensure effective management of all of the resources across the NHS and ensure that medical professionals are able to stay focused on the issues that they should be providing support on.

“Unfortunately injury and illness don’t always happen at convenient times and all of those involved in healthcare need to ensure they are best prepared to deal with calls and enquiries at all times.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner