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Disingenuous to suggest GPs are shirking responsibilities to patients, says RCGP

"We want our patients to be able to see a GP or member of the practice team when they need to - and it is as frustrating for us as it is for them when they have to wait too long for an appointment. Indeed, it is testament to the hard work and dedication of GPs that we are consistently rated as highly-trusted amongst patients, despite this.

"On occasions when practices are closing during routine hours, 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 many vital tasks that GPs and our teams are required to do, such as complying with mandatory or statutory training.

"It is also more likely that it is 'branch' practices that are affiliated to larger sites that have regular closing hours - or very small practices that are forced to close due to staffing shortages. In either case, adequate cover arrangements will always be put in place for patients who need urgent care and, wherever possible, patients are fully informed well in advance, and explanatory messages are posted on websites and surgery answer machines. 

"The introduction of Primary Care Networks in England should make it easier for GPs to optimise what they can do within routine hours - and we have already seen a significant drop in practices temporarily closing over the last year, which coincides with the period they have been introduced.

"But what is really needed to ensure we have a robust general practice service, is not criticising hard-working GPs and our teams for temporarily closing our surgeries without really understanding the specific reasons why for each site, but to invest in our service and grow our workforce, so that we don't have to."



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