Exclusive: Newly-elected GP wins seat on Commons health committee

A GP newly elected to parliament has won a seat on the influential House of Commons health select committee, vowing to champion the cause of general practice including the workforce crisis and pay.

Dr James Davies: joins House of Commons health select committee
Dr James Davies: joins House of Commons health select committee

Dr James Davies (Con, Vale of Clwyd), elected to parliament for the first time last month, was voted onto the committee by fellow Tory MPs on Wednesday.

The Commons health select committee is chaired by former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston (Con, Totnes) who was re-elected to the position last week.

Dr Davies, speaking exclusively to GPonline ahead of the committee election, said he planned to use his position in parliament to champion the cause of general practice and to correct negative and misguided views of the service. The Welsh GP - a former CCG clinical lead - said there were still questions over how much demand there is for the seven-day service being implemented by the government in England.

Dr Davies said there had been a ‘running background commentary’ from some politicians who ‘don't really know much about the health service’.

Video: meet parliament's latest GP-MP:

‘I think the public are frustrated because they can't get appointments. That's one of the key things you hear on the doorstep. And some politicians reflect that in what they say without perhaps understanding the background and the fact there is a shortage of GPs.’

Dr Davies said part of his role as an MP would be trying to explain the reality and promoting policies to address the workforce crisis and GP pay.

The MP, who intends to continue practising as a locum during parliamentary recesses, said government plans to provide a seven-day service for every patient in England posed a ‘big challenge’ because of the workforce crisis and suggested there may not be much demand for routine weekend appointments.

Dr Davies said: ‘There is a huge demand for GP appointments and in the week it is outstripping supply and the challenge will be having enough GPs to provide a service. I think in the short term, even if there are appointments and people are more aware of appointments at the weekend, there is still going to be a big challenge in terms of manpower.’

GP seven-day concerns

Dr Davies said he understood GPs’ fears that they could be forced to work seven days a week, but that was misplaced. ‘I think the reality is they are not going to be expected to work seven days a week, but there may be some expectation that when they do work could be shifted around a little bit more,’ he said. The policy, he added, did not necessarily mean many patients would get weekend appointments at their own practice.

He added: ‘I think there is a debate as to whether there will be that much demand for Saturday and Sunday appointments over and above emergencies. But there are pilots and it's inevitably going to be a small number of practices or facilities initially and depending on the success of those it'll be rolled out.’

Last week health secretary Jeremy Hunt told GPs they would be expected to implement seven-day services as part of his new deal in return for government action to expand workforce and training, but that not every practice would be expected to open evenings and weekends.

Next week: Read GPonline's exclusive interview with Dr Davies in full.

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