Health secretary hails GPs as 'bedrock of the NHS' and pledges increased support

GPs are the 'bedrock' of the NHS and must be given more support and better resources to do their jobs, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock told the Tory party conference on Tuesday.

Speaking at the party conference in Birmingham, Mr Hancock said NHS reform would not be possible without GPs and pledged to support them ‘every step of the way’.

He said: ‘Our GPs are the bedrock of the NHS. They’re everyone's first port of call and because our GPs are the bedrock of the NHS we need more of them, better supported [and] better equipped.

‘Prevention of ill health is nothing without primary care, so we back our nation's GPs every step of the way.’

GP crisis

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey welcomed the health and social care secretary’s comments, saying he had ‘rightly recognised the enormous contribution GPs make to the NHS and the wider health of the country’.

However, Dr Vautrey also called on Mr Hancock to ‘turn his clear verbal commitment into action’, citing the workforce crisis, unmanageable workloads, spiralling indemnity costs and ongoing premises issues as a few of the most urgent issues that GPs currently face.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'It is really encouraging to hear Matt Hancock’s comments about general practice, and his acknowledgement that our profession needs more support. General practice certainly is the bedrock of the NHS: we make the vast majority of patient contacts in the NHS, and by doing so we alleviate pressures across the health service.

'His commitment to backing GPs every step of the way now must be delivered in terms of more GPs, more members of the wider practice team, and more resources for our profession, so that we can keep our patients safe, close to home, where they want to be cared for, and where it is most cost-effective.'

Technology

Mr Hancock also used his speech to renew his pledges to improve technology and promote prevention within the primary care sector, stating that - although the introduction of new technology could be ‘bumpy’ - the potential benefits are ‘huge’.

‘I say this to people who tell me that technology isn’t always perfect… Of course it’s not always perfect, but that's not a reason to reject technology - that’s a reason to improve technology and keep making sure we get the best use of it.’

Mr Hancock promised upfront funding to help overworked and under-resourced GP practices adopt new technology in a speech at the NHS Expo event last month.

The health and social care secretary used his party conference speech to unveil £240m of winter funding for social care.

Winter pressure

‘I am making an extra £240 million available to councils to pay for social care packages this winter to support our NHS,’ he said.

‘We will use this money to get people who don’t need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back into their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds, and help people who really need it, get the hospital care they need.’

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This new funding, if directed appropriately, can help free up beds and ease hospital pressures. However, this is a short-term fix that doesn’t nearly make up for a decade’s worth of cuts to social care, and does not address the impoverished infrastructure of the NHS this winter.’

Last week, NHS officials warned frontline staff to prepare for a 'challenging' winter.

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