The government should invest and raise public awareness of the out of hours (OOH) service, not make routine general practice a seven day service, Maureen Baker, RCGP chair said today.
The only way for the government to achieve its seven day NHS pledge is to invest in OOH, making it more visible and integrating it better with in-hours general practice, Baker said in a debate at the Health Plus Care conference in London this morning.
The debate focused on whether the government could deliver its pre-election pledges, of which the majority of the audience of healthcare professionals agreed it could not.
"We already have seven day working in general practice, we have in-hour practice and out of hours practice. But the out of hours service is not widely recognised by the public. They're not aware that they can have access to a GP when they need one in the evenings and weekends.
"And its incredibly disappointing that the message around seven day working in general practice is seven day working in routine general practice. The question is, do we really want to spend our precious NHS resources so that someone can get their ears syringed on a Sunday teatime? Or do we want to put our money where it's going to best affect the health and care of patients?" she said.
Baker also spoke about the feasability of the 5,000 GP target, which Jeremy Hunt confirmed yesterday was the "maximum" number, hinting that it may in reality be much less.
However, Baker said today that the target was achievable. "Is 5,000 more GPs by 2020 achievable? Mathematically yes, in fact mathematically it might be possible to get 8,000. That depends what the baseline is, it depends what we're starting from and at the point of which we are haemorraging GPs through every career stage. It does get more and more unlikely.
"The best way to do attract GPs into the career, to retain GPs, is to make it an attractive job, once again it can be the best job in medicine, absolutely," she said.