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Everyone now has easier and more convenient access to GP services, including appointments in the evenings and at weekends. There are also substantial improvement programmes in place related to seven-day hospital services set out in the NHS long-term plan, including hospitals with major A&E departments providing same-day emergency care services 12 hours a day, seven days a week, by the end of 2019-20.
I thank the Minister for her reply, but I am increasingly concerned that my constituents in Romford often have to wait three weeks or even longer for routine appointments with their GPs. What action are the Government taking to ensure that such long waiting times are reduced and preferably eliminated altogether?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Just over 40% of all booked appointments take place on the same day with GPs. However, it is important to recognise that many patients will be appropriately booking ahead as part of the ongoing plan for long-term conditions. The new GP contract will see billions of pounds in extra investment for improved access to GPs, expanded services at local practices and longer appointments for patients who need them. NHS England is working with stakeholders and is undertaking a national review of access to general practice services.
With more than 5 million people across England unable to book an appointment with a GP outside working hours, many of our constituents have had to wait two or three weeks to get an appointment. With the loss of 1,600 full-time GPs since 2015 and billions of pounds in cuts since 2010, does the Minister realise that the NHS is certainly not safe with the Conservative party, and that is what the British people think?
I simply do not recognise the scenario that the hon. Lady has just articulated. There is access to GP practices throughout England outside of working hours.
I am delighted to ask the Minister, who is my constituency neighbour, a question. Will the efforts to get more work through a seven-day NHS mean an extra effort to improve the take-up of the flu vaccine this year, not least for those suffering from lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma? About 50% of people with those conditions did not get the vaccine or did not take up the opportunity to do so last year. Will that be improved this year? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that those individuals and the people who support them get the necessary flu vaccine this year?
It is a delight to take a question in my first Health questions from my right hon. Friend and constituency neighbour. If he pops into Shefford pharmacy, I am sure that Jamil will give him a flu vaccine as he walks through the door because Jamil does not require anybody to wait; anyone who wants a vaccine can have one—think pharmacy first. We are also ahead on flu vaccines for pensioners compared with last year. As my right hon. Friend articulated, it is crucial that those in the at-risk groups are vaccinated first to protect themselves this winter. We are targeting patients through the “Help Us, Help You” campaign, which highlights the impact of flu on those who are most at risk, and we are ahead of our targets from last year.
Order. We are running late, but I will take a one-sentence question from Gareth Thomas.
I did not hear the hon. Gentleman’s question in full, but I would be happy to meet him afterwards to talk about the matter in more detail.