NATIONAL PLAN

'Ambitious' targets to give patients the right to see a health professional within 24 hours and a doctor within two days have met with a mixed response from primary care associations.

Dr Peter Smith, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, said the targets were 'achievable' and reflected the fact that 'society has become more consumerist and people are less concerned about continuity and whether they see their own GP'.

But NHS Alliance chief executive Mike Sobanja said they could 'be very difficult to meet, given their resource and manpower implications'. He was more enthusiastic about other changes being mooted for primary care. Of these, he said moves to increase flexible working and flexible pay would be particularly welcome.

The government is expected to unveil the targets as part of a push to modernise general practice. This will also mean the creation of 'one-stop shops' for minor operations in primary care settings.

Both the NAPC and alliance welcomed the idea, which could see GPs being trained to carry out minor procedures as well as consultants being called into GP practices. Dr Smith said such developments would bring back 'a lot of changes that were underway which were displaced when primary care groups came along'.

He welcomed suggestions that the government would use the plan to bring help to GPs working in areas of deprivation. He was hopeful that the plan would also bring changes so that 'micro levels of deprivation' within surgery areas could be tackled.

HSJ sources suggested that other details likely to emerge in the plan would give GPs protected time for clinical governance and professional development. The plan is also expected to flesh out ways to improve links between primary care and social services.