The government has announced that GPs in England will be able to sign up to a voluntary contract to provide seven-day-a-week cover for patients.
Speaking during the Conservative Conference in Manchester the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that the contract would be offered to GPs across England to improve the availability of services for patients.
Mr Cameron, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show soon after his speech, insisted a seven-day-a-week NHS was “a really exciting prospect”.
“We said that we are going to have to make difficult decisions elsewhere, but the NHS will not just be protected,” said Mr Cameron.
“It’s getting an extra £10bn of money during this Parliament, over and above inflation, and that enables us to meet some really clear goals.
“Let me be clear, this doesn’t mean that all staff in the NHS have to work every seven days, it just means the services are available.
Under the proposals, family doctors will be able to decide whether they want to join forces with neighbouring GPs to form federations and networks of practices delivering seven-day care to populations of at least 30,000 patients, allowing them to deliver better integrated care.
Trials of seven-day GP access have already begun, with more than 18 million patients getting extended availability this year.
However, the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned that making plans for seven-day working was “unrealistic”, due to the recruitment crisis that the profession was facing. They added that it was ultimately unachievable in this Parliament and risked destabilising care.