The Queen's speech set out plans including a new visa to ensure qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals from overseas have fast-track entry to the UK.
A briefing note from the prime minister's office that accompanied the speech reiterated the government's promise to deliver 50m more appointment in GP surgeries every year and its plans to provide '6,000 more doctors and 6,000 more primary care professionals in general practice'.
The DHSC confirmed to GPonline that the 6,000 GP workforce figure referred to full-time equivalent roles and that the target was to be acheived by 2024/25.
The Queen's speech also unveiled plans for an NHS funding bill, which will enshrine in law the multi-year settlement agreed earlier this year that delivers a £33.9bn cash increase in funding for the health service by 2023/24. The increase is worth £20.5bn in real terms.
Meanwhile, the government will seek cross-party consensus on long-term reform of social care and further work will continue to reform the Mental Health Act.
Number 10's briefing note on the speech also aimed to quell fears about the future of the NHS as the UK leaves the EU next year. It said the 'NHS is not, and never will be, for sale' in any future trade negotiations.
The document added: 'The government is committed to the guiding principles of the NHS – that it is universal and free at the point of need. The price the NHS pays for drugs is not on the table.'
NHS long-term plan
The government also intends to put forward legislation to support the NHS long-term plan, following recommendations from NHS England earlier this year.
NHS England said that legislative change was necessary to help deliver integrated care and enable different parts of the NHS to work more effectively with each other and partners. Chief among its recommendations is to repeal legislation that forces the NHS to automatically tender contracts, which was introduced as part of the Health and Social Care Act in 2012.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said that the commitment in law to fund the NHS was 'both a relief and a necessity'. However, he added: 'We now need detail and we need general practice to feature prominently in any plans for the future of our health service.
'The secretary of state for health and social care has described general practice as the "bedrock of the NHS" and it is – we hope these words, and the government’s pledges, will be followed by the funding and resources necessary to deliver more GPs, more members of the practice team, and more support for frontline GPs, delivering care to more than a million patients every day.'
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'The prime minister has rightly said that the NHS is ‘top priority’ – and he needs to be realistic of the scale of the task at hand. While it’s encouraging to see NHS funding guaranteed in law, the BMA has been clear that the money pledged by the government falls short of what’s needed to make up for years of underinvestment and to meet the rising health needs of Britain in the future.
'The NHS relies on the people who keep it running and it is vital that the government supports the workforce and redoubles efforts to recruit and retain staff. For example, an NHS visa system, as confirmed today, is a positive step, but if we are to truly welcome talented international healthcare workers, the financial hurdles of visa fees and the immigration health surcharge must go.
Dr Nagpaul added that an urgent change in pension tax legislation was also needed 'if we are to prevent experienced doctors reducing hours or leaving the profession altogether'.
Professor Marshall wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday calling for the government to deliver on its pre-election promise to deliver 6,000 more GPs - warning that many in the profession are working beyond maximum capacity and facing burnout.
With more GPs leaving the profession than joining it, he warned, general practice is 'fighting a losing battle'.