Exclusive: Election manifestos must offer support for GPs

GP leaders have welcomed statements backing general practice from political parties and challenged the parties to ensure these views are reflected in manifestos for next year's general election.

Dr Baker: 'It is good to see the three main political parties recognising the role that GPs play in keeping our patients safe and our NHS sustainable'
Dr Baker: 'It is good to see the three main political parties recognising the role that GPs play in keeping our patients safe and our NHS sustainable'

But the leaders of both the GPC and the RCGP warned that politicians must build on these messages with tangible offers of support to ease the GP crisis.

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said including positive messages about general practice in manifestos would demonstrate that politicians were prepared to make those pledges not just to an audience of GPs, but in public-facing statements.

'What all the parties should be doing is being clear about their commitment to improve capacity and infrastructure in general practice so there is sustainable and manageable workload. That needs to be in public-facing manifestos,' he told GP.

GPs' essential role recognised

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: 'It is good to see health spokespeople from the three main political parties recognising the essential role that GPs play in keeping our patients safe and our NHS sustainable.'

She warned that the NHS faces a 'chronic shortage of GPs' and that the profession's workload was rising while resources fell.

'It is clear that our politicians understand that this imbalance is good neither for patients nor for the health service,' said Dr Baker. 'We now need them to back our calls for general practice to receive 11% of the NHS budget by 2017 - including training at least 8,000 more GPs.

'This is what we would like to see in the party manifestos in the run-up to next year's general election.'

Glaring omissions

Dr Nagpaul was critical of some 'glaring' omissions from the parties' statements. 'It seems that no party has grasped that there is a crisis,' he said. 'We are seeing a reduction in the GP workforce, a rise in retirements, cuts in GP funding and the prospect of further cuts. That is the reality GPs are facing.'

He pointed out that none of the statements acknowledged concerns about GP premises - a BMA poll this year found 52% of practices had seen no new investment in premises in more than a decade.

Dr Nagpaul was also critical of Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham's plan to reinstate 48-hour GP access targets if the party wins the 2015 general election.

'Any talk of improving access in general practice is failing to grasp that GPs are struggling to deliver enough appointments for current need,' Dr Nagpaul said.

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