The Royal College of General Practitioners has responded to media reports which state that the NHS is launching a major crackdown on GP surgeries that close for half-days during the week.
A number of media outlets, including the Daily Mail and The Sun newspapers, say officials have identified 722 practices in England that regularly close their doors for at least four hours at a time, “including lengthy lunch breaks or midweek afternoons off”. The reports suggest that if these surgeries remained open, an additional 287,000 appointments would be available every year.
Responding to the media reports, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP Chair, said GPs are working under intense resource and workforce pressures, and it is disingenuous to insinuate that they are in some way shirking their responsibilities to patients.
"We want our patients to be able to see a GP or member of the practice team when they need to and it is as frustrating for us as it is for them when they have to wait too long for an appointment,” Professor Stokes-Lampard said.
She explained that on occasions when practices close during routine hours, it is usually time spent conducting telephone or online consultations, making home visits or other “vital tasks”.
"What is really needed to ensure we have a robust general practice service is not criticising hard-working GPs and our teams for temporarily closing our surgeries without really understanding the specific reasons why for each site, but to invest in our service and grow our workforce, so that we don't have to,” she said.