Doctors’ surgeries across Barnet will struggle to cope when they are “forced” to open seven days a week, say campaigners.
The campaigners, from the Barnet NHS Needs You campaign, are calling for the public to be consulted on whether they even want the seven-day service, which will become standard from April under new government rules.
And they say Barnet has not been allocated enough funds to pay for the service in comparison with neighbouring London boroughs.
They have highlighted figures which show Barnet’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which funds GPs, has only received £725,000 from the NHS GP Access Fund, which amounts to £1.90 per person. That compares to Enfield which has received £1.8m (£4.75 per person) and Harringey which has received £1.3m (£3.78 per person).Islington gets more than three times as much as Barnet with £5.84 per person.
Ironically, the seven-day service in Barnet could make it more difficult for patients to get a GP appointment as surgeries become even more stretched, it is claimed.
Dr Claire Mitchell, a GP who lives in East Finchley, said: “Forcing practices to open longer may well reduce availability of GPs at times of peak demand during the week, when most patients actually want to be seen.”
In other parts of the country, GPs have given up on Sunday opening because there wasn’t enough demand, say campaigners.
Campaign spokesman, Councillor Phil Cohen, said: "Taxpayers money is being spent on this even though no one has asked patients in Barnet if they want to go to the GP on Saturdays and Sundays.
"There needs to be research with Barnet residents to find out if they want seven day opening. If they don’t, there are far better things the NHS can do with this money."
A spokeswoman for NHS England denied the weekend service was being “forced” on every GP practice, but that practices would work together to lessen the burden and provide the service from “hubs.”
She said GPs in Barnet were already delivering part of the extended service and therefore the cost from April would be less than for other boroughs which had not been delivering anything.
She said: “Comparing Barnet to other neighbouring areas or by population sizes does not take into consideration that different boroughs will be at different starting points for delivering extended access.
She added: “Extra capacity in the evening and weekends has been designed to relieve pressures during core hours to enable patients to find it easier to access an appointment."
As regards public engagement, the spokeswoman said there had already been “significant patient and stakeholder engagement, and all CCGs in London have signed up to delivering.”