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Hundreds fewer GP surgeries open evenings and weekends, Labour claims

Labour claims 600 fewer surgeries are open on evenings and weekends. Photo:

Almost 600 fewer GP surgeries are offering extended opening hours than they were in 2009, Labour has claimed as it unveils its latest campaign poster: "The doctor can't see you now".

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will claim today that coalition budget cuts had reduced funding from £3.01 per patient to £1.90 per patient, forcing the number of surgeries open at evenings and weekends to fall from 77 per cent to 72 per cent.

Labour has unveiled its new campaign poster Credit: Labour, 2015

But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has accused Labour of using inaccurate figures, pointing to the Prime Minister's Challenge Fund which he said covered 1,100 practices and 7.5 million patients.

The poster - a play on the Conservatives' infamous "Labour isn't working" poster of 1978 - shows a long queue of people trailing outside a waiting room sign, with the tagline: "The Tories have made it harder to see a GP".

Labour's new poster is a take on an idea by the Tories more than 30 years ago Credit: Conservatives, 1978

It comes after Conservative leader David Cameron promoted a policy of seven-day GP care.

Today, across the country, people will face the frustration of joining a queue to see their GP - in some places the lines will go out of the surgery door.

After five years of David Cameron, patients at hundreds of surgeries can no longer get a GP appointment when they need one.

At the last election, he promised to open GP surgeries seven days a week but the reality is that millions more patients are unhappy with opening hours. It is now harder to get an appointment from Monday to Friday too.

One of Cameron's first acts as Prime Minister was to cut Labour's extended opening hours scheme and scrap our guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours. If David Cameron gets back in, his extreme spending cuts mean he can't protect the NHS and the queues outside GP surgeries will get even worse.

The NHS needs Labour's better plan for 8,000 more GPs, paid for with a £2.5 billion a year Time to Care fund, and guaranteed appointments within 48 hours.

– Andy Burnham, Labour
Labour says it is now harder to get a GP appointment than it was in 2009 Credit: PA

Jeremy Hunt said the Tories planned to extend the Prime Minister's Challenge Fund to cover 1,400 extra GP surgeries, helping 10 million more people, by April next year.

Labour's figures are wrong.

The next Conservative Government will deliver a truly seven-day NHS, putting right a problem which began with Labour's disastrous 2004 GP contract.

You can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy. Ed Miliband as prime minister - propped up by Alex Salmond and the SNP - would wreck the economy, risking the funding our NHS needs. Patients would pay the price.

– Jeremy Hunt, Conservative

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats said Labour's figures were "out of date", and reiterated their campaign promise to spend an extra £8 billion on the NHS.

[This is] almost three times the extra funding Labour is promising.

On opening hours, Labour are out-of-date. Their figures are from 2013 and conveniently ignore the impact of the £50m GP Access Fund, delivered by the Liberal Democrats in government last year, which has supported 1,147 practices in extending their hours.

Perhaps if Labour had invested extra money in the NHS then, rather than wasting £12.4 billion on their failed NHS supercomputer, people would take them seriously now.

But until Ed Miliband matches our commitment to meeting the £8 billion shortfall in the NHS budget, they do not deserve a hearing.

– Lord Scriven, Liberal Democrats