CBI claims rigid GP services affect workers’ health and cost employers in lost productivity

“Outdated and rigid” GP services are placing an unnecessary burden on employees and businesses, according to a report from the CBI.

The employers group said restricted opening hours, difficulty in booking appointments and the limited range of services on offer in many surgeries are resulting in millions of lost working days and affecting people’s health.

In its report, Just what the patient ordered, the CBI claims poor existing provision should be challenged and new providers brought in where this is in patients’ interests.

The report says making it easier to switch GP, more flexible, patient-friendly opening, being able to register at more than one practice and greater use of walk-in centres and over-the-counter advice from pharmacists could make a huge difference.

However, the British Medical Association (BMA) hit back, saying CBI members “should put their own house in order” before trying to heap the blame on GPs.

Independent research by Boots claims 3.5 million working days are lost each year because of time spent at the doctor’s, costing the economy about £1bn.

The CBI report recommends a thorough overhaul of family doctor services, including:

  • Patients being able to register at more than one practice, allowing working people to access GP services near their homes and near work
  • More primary care services being made available over the counter from qualified pharmacists or in-store nurses, or from walk-in centres in train stations and elsewhere
  • New providers being able to enter the market, for instance to deliver health services in areas with too few doctors and in deprived neighbourhoods.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: “A healthy workforce is as important to employers as a workforce with the skills needed to compete. An employee who isn’t there because they have to wait around in a GP’s surgery is a lost order, a missed opportunity or an unanswered phone call.

“Good employers want employees to look after their health. But they don’t want to pay for a health service that isn’t flexible enough to cope with the modern world.”

However, Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: “If employees lose time from work to see their doctor it is either because they are ill and need care or because their employer has insisted they get a sicknote even for a temporary illness which has passed.

“This abuse of the sicknote system is a waste of the time for both working people and clinicians.”

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