"Sick patients are being forced to wait longer to see their GPs because of changes in practice hours
SICK patients are being forced to wait as long as three weeks to see their doctor because practices are cutting evening and weekend appointments, Labour claimed yesterday.
There has been a drop of almost six per cent in the number of GP surgeries offering appointments out of normal working hours, according to its study. This is equivalent to almost 500 surgeries across the country.
Last year half of England’s Primary Care Trusts reported a decrease in the number of surgeries offering care outside working hours.
The figures suggest people are turning to accident and emergency wards for help after visits to such hospital units were up by one million in a year.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham accused the Prime Minister of breaking a pre-election pledge that all patients would be able to see their GPs until “8pm seven days a week”.
He said: “David Cameron made a lot of promises on the NHS and one by one we are seeing these promises broken.”
Mr Burnham said that more than 1,300 patients had contacted his party with concerns about the NHS. Of these, about 50 had complained about their GP services, with many reporting that it takes them between two and three weeks to see their doctor.
The study, conducted by the Labour Party, saw 91 of England’s 151 PCTs contacted and found that 56 per cent of them reported a decrease in the number of surgeries offering extended opening hours.
A Tory spokesman blamed Labour’s “disastrous” GP contract for the fall in out-of-hours services.
He said: “This Government is taking the necessary tough decisions to clear up the mess left to us by Labour".”