Harold Hill GP: Seven-day NHS is ‘unrealistic’

Dr Mark Feldman, second right, and his team at Petersfield Surgery, in Harold Hill

Dr Mark Feldman, second right, and his team at Petersfield Surgery, in Harold Hill - Credit: Archant

A GP has cast doubt on government plans to transform the National Health Service (NHS) into a seven-day operation, arguing it is unrealistic in this climate.

Dr Mark Feldman, 60, who has worked at Petersfield Surgery for more than 30 years, said the proposals will require huge increases in manpower and funding.

The government aims to achieve the target by 2020.

Dr Feldman said: “We wouldn’t be able to fund the staff to do it. It takes 10 years to grow a GP – you can’t just pluck them out of the air.

“They are talking about an extra 5,000, but at the moment there is a population growth of about 200,000 and an immigration growth of about 200,000.

“Even if you call it 2,000 per GP, that still makes it 200 GPs extra; 300 to just stay still.

“It is a good idea, but we are a way away from the resources needed to deliver it. I can’t see how it will be achieved.”

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Havering has some seven-day practices, but the reality of transforming the rest is not so simple.

Petersfield, in Petersfield Avenue, Harold Hill, previously trialled a weekend walk-in service, but an application to the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund was not backed by the Havering Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Dr Feldman said: “The other practices doing this work are doing an excellent job. But if there was a feeling they [the government] wanted every single practice to offer a seven-day service, we would have to provide probably 20 to 30 per cent extra staff.

“We would need admin staff, reception staff, nursing staff.

“It is probably too late to start training extra GPs. We need to find alternative solutions.”

One suggestion is for more nurse practitioners, which Dr Feldman said could be “helpful”.

Although a place which fills its training slots, Havering can still suffer from a shortage of GPs to fill other vacancies, he said.

A crucial task is persuading more young people to become GPs.

Dr Feldman, who took over his practice from his father, said: “The profession is not sufficiently attractive to pull in all these trainees.

“There has been a lot of negative press and young doctors are less encouraged to come in. The work-life balance is not so good now.

“We are trying to change this, but it is a long way from being successful.”

A spokesman for the Havering CCG said: “In Havering we have already made great strides in providing seven day access to GPs.

“We now have two “hub” practices offering late evening urgent GP appointments, as well as Saturdays and Sundays from 12-6pm.

“There are issues with the GP workforce nationally and locally, with many GPs approaching retirement age and fewer medical students opting for general practice.

“That will need to be addressed.”