GP SURGERIES have been ordered to stop half-day closures during the week – and threatened with a £40k funding axe if they fail to comply.
The NHS has launched a crackdown on some 722 surgeries in England which regularly close their doors for lengthy lunch breaks or midweek afternoons off.
Officials say if practices remained open, an additional 287,000 appointments would be available every year.
NHS England threatened to withhold funding from doctors’ surgeries who continue to close for half-days without consent.
It could cost a practice roughly £40,000 a year – more than the average nurse’s salary.
Dr Nikki Kanani, acting director of primary care at NHS England and a GP in south-east London, told The Daily Mail: “Family doctors are the bedrock of our health service and access to GP practices remains essential to the NHS… and also to patients who want GPs to be available at core times, as well as in the evenings and at weekends.
“By curbing half-day closures we will be freeing up hundreds of thousands of appointments at a time when we know it can sometimes be tricky to see your GP.”
The announcement came as recent figure reveal surgery waiting times have reached their longest on record – with patients waiting for up to five weeks in some areas.
Last night, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said doctors were working under ‘intense resource and workforce pressures’.
She added it was “disingenuous” to suggest they were ‘shirking’ their responsibilities.
Prof Stokes-Lampard argued there were good reasons for why surgeries closed during the week and said: “It is not time ‘lost’ to patients, it is usually time spent conducting telephone or online consultations, or making home visits.
“Or some of the other vital tasks that GPs and our teams are required to do, such as complying with mandatory or statutory training.”