Far from 'standing between patients and a better service' over longer GP opening hours, the British Medical Association has said most GPs would offer appointments in extended hours, writes Richard Vautrey
We came up with plans for achieving this and improving quality for patients with chronic conditions. The government turned them down and threatened draconian, fund-cutting contract changes if GPs do not toe the line.
Our legal advice to practices about "audits" of appointment times centres on whether this idea is reasonable. Practices provide much data to primary care organisations, but this new information would not reflect the day-to-day variations of appointment systems. Good primary care trusts should already know their practices are fulfilling their contracts.
Your suggestion that private companies would readily provide such information ignores the real world, in which commercial confidentiality is jealously protected. Private companies would insist on their contract and not accept new requirements without negotiation. The BMA had no opportunity to discuss this audit or even notified us of it before the letter was sent to strategic health authorities and PCTs.
The BMA wants practices to feel they can provide extended hours appointments in a flexible way that really meets patients' needs. We believe that government demands for this audit make this harder. We are trying to develop proposals that will benefit patients both in hours and in extended hours. It is not the BMA getting in the way. We remain absolutely committed to offering the best possible services to our patients.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman, BMA GPs committee