Dr Gerada was speaking at a debate in London on Thursday evening organised by the Nuffield Trust think tank, on whether the NHS should be restricting services to a limited package for all patients.
She told the audience at the Royal College of Surgeons that GPs were the ‘risk sink’ of the NHS.
‘The fact that the NHS can absorb, even at times of austerity, massive increases in demand is because of GPs.
‘But the problem is that GPs are heaving under the workload at the moment, absolutely heaving, against increased expectation, to run the NHS between morning and evening surgery.
‘It’s not that I don’t think GPs should be involved in planning care. Of course we should. But we should be concentrating on the strengths of GPs in the consulting room in being able to manage demand, and managing and running integrated multi-disciplinary teams.’
‘I firmly believe if we invest in more GPs spending more time with patients in their communities, we can start to address the escalating costs facing the NHS.’
Professor Tony Mundy, consultant urological surgeon at University College London Hospitals, speaking in a personal capacity, also called for more GPs.
‘GPs are terrific. My father was a GP. I was a GP once. But they are not heaving because they are so busy. They are heaving because there are not enough of them. It’s another example of under-resourcing.
‘The fundamental problem is that as long as you insist that all funding of healthcare comes from general taxation and no other source, and you insist that all healthcare will be free at the point of delivery, there is no way of addressing the issue, because you cannot take money from Peter to pay Paul.’
The Nuffield Trust is due to publish a report on 27 February outlining the cases for and against the NHS restricting services to a core package of care.