Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, in response to the Patients Association’s report on difficulties in getting a GP appointment, said:
“People need to feel confident that they can get to see their family doctor whenever they need to, with minimum delay and disruption. But the progress made by the Labour Government in this area has been lost.
“In the same week that George Osborne’s budget takes £2.2 billion away from the Department of Health, this is another sign of an NHS in increasing distress.
“The report is right to highlight the difficulties people face in booking an appointment around their working day. Five years ago, Labour asked GP surgeries to open late into the evening and on Saturdays too. But the Government’s decision to stop the national monitoring of GP opening hours sent out the wrong signal to the NHS. In the last two years, hundreds of surgeries have stopped offering extended opening hours – forcing people to take time off work or wait days for an appointment, as the report shows.
“Popular NHS Walk-in Centres are being closed and GP surgeries are shutting their doors earlier - worried patients are left with no alternative but to turn to A&E. Now A&E units up and down the country are now reaching breaking point – with a million extra visitors in the last year and thousands of nursing jobs axed.
“David Cameron promised patients would be able to get evening appointments with their GP, but things are heading in the opposite direction. The Government must bring back longer surgery opening hours and restore order to our A&Es.”