The challenge from the floor came after Mr Hunt took to the stage at the RCGP annual conference in Liverpool on Thursday to make a key announcement that the government will introduce state-funded GP indemnity from April 2019.
The health secretary was challenged in a question and answer session to explain why GPs should believe promises in his speech that he would back general practice. The health secretary reasserted his goal of increasing the GP workforce by 5,000 and highlighted successive years of real-terms increases to funding devoted to general practice.
Dr Stephanie deGiorgio warned that members of the profession were ‘exhausted and drowning’ due to workload pressures. She said she had warned Mr Hunt at the RCGP conference three years ago about the pressures in general practice.
‘And it has gotten worse on your watch, as we told you it would,’ she added. ‘I ask why should we believe what you are saying today when you weren’t listening then?’
GPs under pressure
He responded: ‘I respectfully and professionally profoundly disagree with the sentiment of that question, and I'm sorry if that’s what you think. I did not say we would solve those problems overnight. I don’t think you could say for a moment I was ducking the challenges facing general practice.
‘The long-term issue is getting more GPs to do the work we need general practice to do – and what I have done in the three years since is I have put in a programme to get 5,000 more GPs – that doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of work.
‘I've announced plans to increase the number of doctors we train across the NHS by 25%, one of the biggest increases in the history of the NHS. And I am trying to do everything I possibly can to solve these issues.
‘What I would say is there are things you could do as well. There is evidence from the slides that I showed this morning that you can make a big difference in your own practice. This isn't something the health secretary will solve for you – it’s going to take work together.’