Exclusive: Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham answers questions from GP readers

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has answered questions from GP readers on topics including the future of CCGs, GP retention and the future of independent contractor status

Mr Burnham: 'The future will require a mix of independent contractors and salaried GPs.'
Mr Burnham: 'The future will require a mix of independent contractors and salaried GPs.'

Read the answers to the first five questions below. We'll be posting the answers to another five questions from GP readers to Mr Burnham on Friday.

1.    Won’t your plans effectively sideline the GPs leading CCGs and mean elected politicians in councils eventually control NHS spending?

No. To support the integration of services, we want to bring budgets, commissioners and providers together at a local level. That means encouraging greater co-operation between the NHS and councils, through the health and wellbeing board, but it does not mean sidelining GPs.

2.    With a third of GPs looking to retire in the next five years, and a recruitment crisis like we’ve never seen before, why aren’t the political parties seeing the blatantly obvious?  If the bureaucracy was removed from primary care, and GPs were left to treat patients I could foresee a primary care where patients were able to get the access they need to their GP.  What plans do you have to cut the paperwork GPs are required to do?

GPs provide cost-effective, world-class care and we need to do more to ensure they can spend more of their time caring for patients and less time dealing with paperwork. Labour will work with GPs to cut down on bureaucracy.

3.    If it takes seven years to train a GP and training posts are unfilled, where are the thousands of extra GPs you are promising going to come from?

Labour has pledged 8,000 more GPs by 2020. Delivering this number will require action on a range of fronts including immediate action to incentivise more students to choose GP speciality training, to encourage more GPs to practice in under-doctored areas and to encourage those who have recently left to return to practice.

4.    Of course we need to increase the number of GPs being trained but this is a timely process. Surely the more pressing issue is how to improve GP retention. How do you you propose to stem the tide of GPs either retiring early or taking their skills overseas?

Yes – for too long general practice has not been promoted as a positive career choice. That has got to change. Part of the problem in recent years has been the Tory-led government trying to blame GPs for problems that too often the Tory-led government has caused. GPs provide world class cost-effective care and we need to be better at celebrating GPs, not bashing them.

5.    Will you abolish independent contractor status for GPs and encourage us all to become salaried?

No. The future will require a mix of independent contractors and salaried GPs.

* Visit GPonline on Friday for Mr Burnham's answers to your questions on topics including GP access, NHS preferred provider status and capping private sector profits

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