Exclusive: Labour leads race for GP support ahead of general election

GPs believe Labour is the political party most likely to protect the NHS but remain unconvinced it will deliver on a pledge to recruit an extra 8,000 GPs, a poll reveals.

Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham (Photo: Alex Deverill)
Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham (Photo: Alex Deverill)

A total of 36% of 263 GPs who responded to a GPonline poll identified Labour as the party they trust most to protect the NHS.

The Conservative party ranked second in the poll, with 22%, followed by the Green party on 16%, the Liberal Democrats on 10% and Ukip on 8%.

Among respondents in Scotland, the Scottish National Party won overwhelming support as the party most likely to protect the NHS.

Little faith in politicians

Many respondents were unconvinced that any political party could be trusted with the NHS. One said: ‘I have no faith in any of the political parties – I have seen nothing but deterioration under the last few governments, changes are being made for political benefits and not for NHS benefits.’

Another said: ‘Very concerned about all main parties’ policies. I see no obvious party to vote for.’

And another said: ‘They all talk nonsense.’

Despite Labour being trusted more than other UK parties to protect the NHS, just 3% of respondents said the party would deliver on its pledge to boost the medical workforce with 8,000 more GPs.

One respondent asked: ‘Where are the 8,000 extra coming from if training places are already underfilled and proposed extended hours surgeries potentially are putting more off entering the profession?’

Another said: ‘Better than conservative plans but fear may be undeliverable. Retention is the biggest problem, as many GPs are jumping ship.’

Extra GPs

The Conservatives have pledged to retain and retrain an extra 5,000 GPs, but again only 3% of GPs felt the party would deliver on this.

Just one in 20 respondents felt 5,000 extra GPs was enough, against one in five who thought the Labour proposal for 8,000 was enough.

GPs were strongly opposed to Conservative plans to extend general practice access from 8am to 8pm seven days a week by 2020.

Just 6% of respondents agreed with the plans, while 87% either disagreed or strongly disagreed.

One respondent to the poll warned: ‘The NHS cannot afford it. Patients can already access a GP 24 hours a day if medically needed. To do this new access will mean cuts elsewhere – there are not enough GPs.’

Another GP was neutral on the extended hours plans but said: ‘To do it effectively is going to cost them a bomb and I suspect they will just ask the same tired workforce to do yet more for no return.’

Just 10% of GPs agreed Labour plans to reinstate 48-hour primary care access targets, with 70% saying they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the move.

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