Education GP challenges Simon Stevens on GP recruitment

A pledge by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens that there would be 5,000 new GPs has been challenged by a GP director of health education in the north-east of England.

Dr Maureen Baker and Simon Stevens (Photo: Pete Hill)

Mr Stevens told the RCGP annual conference in Liverpool on Friday that the estimate was provided by Health Education England (HEE) but agreed to hear the GP’s concerns privately.

Yesterday at the RCGP conference health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that HEE would review how many GPs were needed across England area by area. The Conservatives are promising 5,000 new GPs, Labour 8,000.

The GP trainer told Mr Stevens: ‘I’ve spent eight years improving capacity and desperately trying to attract people into the profession.’

Mr Stevens warned that talk of a general practice crisis could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In a question-and-answer session he was asked repeatedly about problems with premises and the reluctance of young GPs to take on loans which could eventually leave them in negative equity.

Mr Stevens said: ‘I can’t see the NHS buying up every practice premises going spare but you have put your finger on an important concern. The reality on premises investment is that there hasn’t been money for the last year.’

A Bedfordshire GP told the chief executive about the frustration felt by the actions of NHS England’s area teams.

Mr Stevens said: ‘We are cutting running costs by 15%. There will be half the number of area directors than there were before. We are taking out between £60m and £80m.’

Asked about his enthusiasm for co-payments, Mr Stevens said: ‘I don’t have the sense that’s what the people of this country want.’

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