Viewpoint Dr Baker: Demanding an emergency package to strengthen general practice

With a new government in place, and Jeremy Hunt re-appointed as health secretary for England, it's now time to get down to the business of delivering the new deal for general practice, writes RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker.

Dr Baker: 'Now the time has come for these promises to be turned into reality.' Pic: RCGP
Dr Baker: 'Now the time has come for these promises to be turned into reality.' Pic: RCGP

The Conservative party made a number of encouraging pledges in the run up to the election, including £8bn more a year for the NHS by 2020 and £1bn for general practice over the next four years – as well as the promise of 5,000 more GPs made at their party conference last year.

Now the time has come for these promises to be turned into reality.

Emergency package of measures

Analysis published by the RCGP in the run-up to the election showed that, if current trends continue, it would take 21 years to deliver the Conservatives’ aspirations of 5,000 more GPs – and 30 years to deliver the 8,000 that were pledged by the Labour Party and UKIP.

That is why we will be meeting with the new government at the earliest possible opportunity to demand an emergency package of measures to strengthen the general practice workforce and get more GPs into frontline patient care as quickly as possible.

This must dovetail with NHS England’s Five Year Forward View and the 10-point plan to boost the GP workforce that was launched in January by the RCGP, NHS England, Health Education England, and the BMA.

If workforce targets are missed, millions of patients will continue to have to wait more than a week to see their GP every year, and increasing numbers of family doctors will find it more and more difficult to deliver excellent patient care.

As the RCGP keeps saying, general practice is the cornerstone of a strong NHS - but the service we provide can only be sustained if we urgently move to ensure we have the right supply of family doctors in order to meet patient demand.

If properly resourced, we can support the rest of the health service by keeping patients out of hospital, where care is most expensive, and close to home where they want and need care most.

We look forward to working with the new government to reverse the trend of years of underinvestment and a workforce that has not increased in line with the demands of our growing and ageing population.

But we won’t hold back in challenging our new health ministers and holding them to account. The stakes are too high, for our patients and our profession, for them not to deliver.

  • Dr Baker is a GP in Lincoln.

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