In the United Kingdom patients can access non-emergency hospital treatment for free if referred by a family doctor, also known as a general practitioner (GP). A patient gets in contact with the National Health Service (NHS) via a GP almost nine times out of ten. GPs often work in practices with two to five doctors. Practices are open during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are closed during weekends. Patients need to book an appointment to see their GP. In 2013, the Prime Minister of England introduced a Challenge
Fund initiative, investing ÃÂ£50 million to pilot the new scheme, under which a limited number of practices have been asked to stay open during weekends.
a. As a result of weekend access to primary care, do you think that the costs incurred by the NHS to treat patients in the accident and emergency (A&E) departments has increased or decreased? Briefly explain.
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b. A newly elected government has recently expressed the intention to implement important changes to the way patients access GP services. Given your answer to part (a), do you think that the new government is likely to recommend universal GP access seven days a week by 2020? Briefly explain.
c. How might the government have failed to correctly forecast the costs of weekend opening hours? Briefly explain.