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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July 2005, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
Plan to boost GPs 'needs money'
GPs are being encouraged to provide extra services
Doctors' leaders have poured cold water on a government plan to boost general practitioners' services in poor areas.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt unveiled six pilot schemes to encourage GPs and NHS bosses to expand provision.

This could include breakfast and evening surgeries, specialist clinics and walk-in centres, she said.

But Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, and his deputy Dr Laurence Buckman said more money was needed to increase access to doctors.

The Department of Health is not offering any extra money for the six pilots, which will be followed by another 15 in a second wave, although there is a 3.8m pot to help with business and legal support.

Nice try, but it will fail if there is no money
Laurence Buckman, of the BMA

Instead, "entrepreneurial" GPs and other healthcare providers will be encouraged to apply to their primary care trusts (PCTs) for funding to run the extra services.

Ms Hewitt also brought forward the deadline for PCTs to offer GPs the opportunity to run their own budgets under the practice-based commissioning scheme by two years to 2006.

She said: "These new pilots are great news for people living in some of the most deprived and under doctored areas on the country.


"The programme will tackle inequalities in healthcare by recruiting more GPs and other primary care professionals to provide new services.

"It will give GPs and other providers the freedom to work with the NHS to develop a range of services needed locally, such as diagnostics, as well as to offer better access to a GP."

Two areas in London and one each in Liverpool, east Lancashire, Plymouth and West Yorkshire have been chosen for the pilots.

It is expected that between them they will produce three walk-in centres, two GP practices, a nurse-led practice and a range of other services as early as next year.

But Dr Meldrum said the "jury was out" on the scheme.

"For many years GPs have tried to be entrepreneurial and looked at ways to provide extra services.

"But in reality to increase access to doctors needs more doctors which requires more money."

He also said if resources were attracted from other areas access problems could just be displaced.

And Dr Buckman added: "How can you do this without funding it? Nice try, but it will fail if there is no money."

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