Exclusive: New government must put election pledges aside and tackle GP crisis, warns GPC

The newly elected UK government must put 'unrealistic' election pledges on GP access aside and invest rapidly to support a profession on the verge of collapse, the GPC warned as Conservative leader David Cameron looked set to return to Downing Street for a second term.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: government must tackle GP crisis (Photo: Pete Hill)
Dr Chaand Nagpaul: government must tackle GP crisis (Photo: Pete Hill)

With the Conservative government on track to win a shock majority after the 2015 general election, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned that now was the time to 'get real about the crisis facing general practice'.

'We have an immediate crisis to address,' he told GPonline, 'and we need to put behind us the unrealistic populist election pledges, to address the issues and what is undeniably a crisis of workforce and workload.'

His comments come after the RCGP warned that the political parties' election pledges on GP recruitment could take up to 30 years to deliver.

GPs under pressure

The GPC chairman called for NHS England area teams across the country to draw up action plans to support GP practices struggling with 'skeleton staff and unfilled vacancies' and facing 'insurmountable pressure'.

Dr Nagpaul said: 'We ask whoever will be health secretary to jettison the populist pledges and headlines and deal with the harsh, bleak reality facing us – that we simply don’t have a general practice workforce that can meet current pressures. There is an immediate need to address the situation affecting general practice to prevent it imploding - that is the priority, not the manifesto pledges.'

The GPC chairman said it was important to hold the government to pledges on NHS funding - the Conservatives have pledged to meet NHS England's demand for £8bn a year more funding for the health service by 2020.

Bread and butter general practice

But he added: 'What many GPs have become sceptical about over the years is how investment has been misused for political priorities. Manifesto pledges about access and what GPs may provide by 2020 are really not relevant. We need to make sure funding is used to support bread and butter general practice.'

Practices needed to be supported to prevent them closing down, Dr Nagpaul warned. 'We want support to make sure no practice closes down,' he said. 'Closures have a huge impact on neighbouring practices. We need a proactive programme to provide support - that could be locums, could be management support, helping fund other health professionals to support practices, such as nurses or pharmacists - especially where GPs cannot be recruited.'

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