In Brief

Jeremy Hunt unveils new 'new deal' to ease GP workloads

Health secretary to pledge increased investment to GPs if they agree to his plans for seven-day opening

Jeremy Hunt has pledged to introduce a "new deal" for GPs to ease their workload and make the profession more appealing to young doctors.

In a speech today, the Health Secretary will promise increased investment in under-pressure services, and the introduction of an extra 5,000 new GPs by 2020 as well as 5,000 clinical support staff.

Hunt says that the funding increases will help England's 8,500 surgeries to cope with the challenges associated with an ageing population. But he will say that in return for the additional investment, GPs will need to sign up to his plans for weekend opening, the BBC reports.

"I want to be upfront: this is not about change I can deliver on my own," Hunt will tell GPs. "If we are to have a new deal, I will need your co-operation and support.

"Within five years, we will need to look after a million more over-70s. Put simply, if we do not find better, smarter ways to help our growing elderly population remain healthy and independent, our hospitals will be overwhelmed."

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association, said GPs were "ready to work with the government", but insisted there could are problems with trying to introduce a seven-day service.

"Pilots of seven-day routine working are increasingly demonstrating a low uptake of routine weekend appointments," Nagpaul said. "Therefore, to make the most of the limited GP workforce and precious NHS resource, the government should focus on supporting practices during the day and further develop the current 24/7 urgent GP service so that patients can be confident of getting access to a quality GP service day and night."

Andrew Gwynne, the shadow health minister, said that the problems within general practice in the UK were due to Conservative mismanagement.

"David Cameron's fingerprints are all over the Tory GP crisis," Gwynne said. "He made it harder to see a GP, scrapping the right to an appointment in 48 hours and cutting the scheme for evening and weekend opening. And he has created a GP workforce crisis by training fewer GPs and sending morale plummeting to rock-bottom."

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