Government claims on GP workforce not true, says Burnham

The Labour party has accused the government of misusing statistics in claims about the size of the GP workforce.

Andy Burnham: questioning GP claims (Photo: Charlie MacDonald)

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, speaking in a Commons opposition debate on the NHS, said the prime minister ‘regularly abuses statistics’.

Figures from the 2009/10 census, said Mr Burnham, showed there were 32,426 GPs, while most recent figures report 32,201 - 226 fewer.

Earlier, during prime minister’s questions, Mr Cameron repeated the claim that there are 1,000 more GPs under the current government. Mr Burnham said that was 'simply not true'.

Official data questioned

A DH spokeswoman said the official figures counted all full-time equivalent GPs including registrars between September 2010 and September 2013, whereas Labour's figures excluded registrars.

The DH included registrars because they are providing care, the spokeswoman said.

Jeremy Hunt was forced to defend the figure at the recent RCGP conference. He told a GP who disputed the figures that they were correct and from Health Education England.

Responding to claims by the medical royal colleges that patients are struggling to get GP appointments, Mr Burnham told MPs that was because of GP funding cuts.

‘It is happening because the GP budget has been repeatedly cut under this government, because Labour’s 48-hour appointment guarantee has been axed and because the government—in the words of their own GP taskforce—have presided over a "GP workforce crisis". The number of GPs per 100,000 population increased from 54 in 1995 to 62 in 2009. However, the figure has now gone back down to 59.5.’

Turn the financial tide

Plans to integrate health and care would ‘turn the financial tide’, said Mr Burnham. Labour, he added, would use a £2.5bn annual fund to recruit 20,000 more nurses, 3,000 more midwives, 8,000 more GPs and 5,000 extra home care workers by the end of the next parliament.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt responded that he did not think he had ‘ever heard such a misuse of statistics and facts' in the House of Commons.

Labour wanted another NHS reorganisation, he said, ‘effectively abolishing CCGs in all but name and making GPs work for hospitals. 'There is widespread opposition to that policy across the NHS.'

Health minister Dr Daniel Poulter added: ‘It is clear that under this government 1,000 more GPs are now in training and working in the NHS than in 2010 when we came into government. If it is not accepted that that is good start, we have committed to training an extra 5,000 because we want more people working in general practice.’

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