Jeremy Hunt accused of evasiveness over 5,000 GP pledge

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been accused of being evasive over plans to increase the GP workforce after promising 'around' 5,000 extra GPs by 2020 in an exchange in the House of Commons.

Jeremy Hunt: accused of evasiveness over GP workforce pledge (Photo: Pete Hill)
Jeremy Hunt: accused of evasiveness over GP workforce pledge (Photo: Pete Hill)

Mr Hunt was challenged during health questions by Labour shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne to recommit to his pre-election GP recruitment pledge, after Mr Hunt appeared to water down the promise in recent statements.

Mr Gwynne accused the health secretary of being ‘evasive’ over the policy. Highlighting the GP workforce crisis, he said: ‘Can the secretary of state now clear things up?

‘By 2020 will there be 5,000 extra GPs on today’s figures as promised?’

Mr Hunt responded that he had stated before and after the election, ‘we will have around 5,000 more GPs by the end of the parliament, just what I said before the election’.

GP workforce target

In April, however, Mr Hunt told GPonline he would recruit ‘at least 5,000 more GPs in the next parliament’.

Earlier this month Mr Hunt told a conference: ‘In truth we think [5,000] is the maximum that we would be able to increase the GP workforce by over the next five years given the time it takes to train new GPs, given the potential number we could persuade to come back into the profession.’

Responding to those comments, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he was glad the health secretary was beginning to accept the need to be more realistic about GP recruitment and called on him to rethink plans for seven-day GP services.

Hunt GP pledge

The DH has refuted that the target had been watered down and remained committed to the pledge. 

Mr Hunt was also challenged in Tuesday's health questions to promise that deprivation factors in the GP funding formula would not be downgraded.

Mr Hunt said economic deprivation 'will be a very, very important part of the funding formula’, but that factors such as numbers of older people were ‘as important in determining the levels of funding’. Reducing health inequalities, he added, meant ensuring similar levels of care are available in similar parts of the country.

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