Jeremy Hunt was speaking to the BBC ahead of a speech by the the prime minister later today in which he will reiterate plans for a seven-day GP service, and promise a ‘new deal for general practice’.
Questioned on the Today programme as to how the government will meet its pre-election pledge to recruit 5,000 GPs, Mr Hunt said: ‘We need to look at the terms and conditions of general practice. We need to look at why GPs have so much burnout. We need to look at the contract - I’ve already got rid of about 40% of the targets in the GP contract which made GP work feel like piecework.’
David Cameron will visit a practice already providing evening and weekend appointments to set out his vision for a seven-day NHS.
The BMA said it remained unclear how the government intends to translate its plans into reality. Chairman Dr Mark Porter said: ‘The real question for the government is how they plan to deliver additional care when the NHS is facing a funding gap of £30bn and there is a chronic shortage of GPs.’
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said of plans for a seven-day service: ‘We have a severe shortage of GPs and it is difficult to see how this will work without major investment in general practice and a major boost to the GP workforce.’
The Conservatives pledged before the election to increase NHS funding in England by at least the £8bn a year the service has said it needs to continue to current levels and plug a £30 funding black hole. The Tories also promised every patient in England will have 8am to 8pm, seven-day GP access, and to recruit 5,000 extra GPs.
Mr Cameron will say later the government is committed to free healthcare for everyone ‘wherever you are and whenever you need it’.
‘That means getting the best care and making that care available for everyone – free – wherever they are and whenever they need it,' he will say. ‘So I believe that together – by sticking to the plan – we can become the first country in the world to deliver a truly seven-day NHS.’
Mr Hunt admitted there was a ‘real challenge’ for the the service, but he added: ‘One of the biggest things we have to change is the way general practice works.’
Increasing GP numbers was ‘the most important thing that we need to make happen over this parliament’ said Mr Hunt, but the coalition government had already increased GP numbers by 5%.
The prime minister’s Challenge Fund for GP access has already expanded access for and should cover 18m patients by the end of the year. GPs leaders, however, have said local schemes have merely shifted workforce and capacity away from existing out-of-hours and urgent care services.