Doctors say extended GP hours poor use of money

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LONDON, Oct 16 (Reuters) Doctors believe Gordon Brown's pledge to extend GP surgery hours would be a poor use of National Health Service money, the British Medical Association said today.

The doctors' body said 53 per cent of family doctors would be prepared to offer longer surgeries if additional resources were available.

But nearly three quarters of those GPs who responded to a BMA survey said it would not be a good use of NHS funds.

Brown used his keynote speech to the Labour Party conference last month to promise an increase in surgery times.

''We will make GP hours more friendly to families,'' the Prime Minister told delegates as he pledged to make the NHS a more personal service.

Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said patients would receive little benefit from seeing family doctors outside normal working times unless hospitals also extended their own outpatient hours.

Surgeries would also have to cover the additional cost of paying for ancillary staff to stay late or arrive early, said Buckman, himself a north London GP.

''There's no point coming to see me and then having to come back tomorrow to have a blood test,'' he said.

Buckman said the government was deliberately making an issue of extended hours as part of a long-running ''doctor-bashing'' campaign.

He noted that a recent government survey of more than two million patients found that 84 per cent were satisfied with the current opening hours of their GP practices.

''Only four in a hundred patients wanted practices to open in the evenings and seven in a hundred wanted Saturday morning surgeries,'' he said.

''We need to make sure that the changes that are currently being mooted are for sound reasons and that they will really be of benefit to patients.'' More than 11,000 GPs responded to the survey conducted between June and July.

REUTERS GL RN1835

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