Jeremy Hunt faces grilling from MPs as London GPs warn of rising pressure

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will face questions over pressure on general practice and the impact of public health cuts at a health select committee hearing on Tuesday.

MPs to demand answers from Jeremy Hunt on GP crisis (Photo: Robin Hammond)
MPs to demand answers from Jeremy Hunt on GP crisis (Photo: Robin Hammond)

The grilling from MPs on the role of the health secretary comes as Londonwide LMC leaders warned that GPs cannot continue under soaring workload demands and mounting pressure unless key problems are addressed.

Meanwhile, charities urged MPs to challenge the health secretary over the impact of cuts to public health spending.

London GP bosses - in evidence submitted to an ongoing health select committee inquiry into primary care - warned that a cocktail of outdated premises, current and looming workforce shortages, the phasing out of NHS subsidies and the often complex health needs of Londoners was piling more and more pressure onto primary care.

GP workforce timebomb

Unless these problems are addressed now, there will be ‘even bigger problems’ in the future, Londonwide LMCs added.

A recent poll of over 400 London practices by the LMC revealed a ‘staffing timebomb’ in the capital, with 70% of practices reporting that at least one GP was planning to retire within the next three years.

Londonwide LMCs CEO Dr Michelle Drage said: ‘Despite GPs’ efforts to meet rising demand for appointments, general practice in London is beset by blockages in flow; diverting staff from consulting, co-ordinating or planning care and both reducing access to patients and demotivating professionals.

‘Faced with an ageing and growing, and increasingly unwell population, GPs in deprived areas are seeing patients in their mid-40s with multiple long-term conditions which would normally only be present in those over 70 and are growing increasingly frustrated and stressed that the allotted 10-minute consultation time is simply inadequate.

‘The reckless and short-sighted reduction in support services in the community such as health visitors, mental health services and social services leads to overwhelmed GPs, and to the tell-tale signs of illness getting missed. That leads to GPs having more consultations, less time with patients, and patients waiting longer for appointments. Everybody gets a worse deal. Too many GPs and practice nurses in London are running on empty trying to manage these rises in demand.’

Meanwhile, charities in the Smokefree Action Coalition warned that 'current and likely future funding cuts to public health budgets together with policy changes with respect to regulation threaten the sustainability of the NHS'. The group urged MPs to challenge Mr Hunt over plans for '£200m of in-year cuts' to local authority health budgets'.

Headlines from Londonwide LMCs' submission include:

  • Need to improve professional engagement and interdependencies to respond to wider determinants of health and inequalities in a connected way given increase in chronic and long-term conditions – set to rise by 50% from 2008 to 2018 based on DH figures.
  • Address factors blocking the flow of patients through general practice and ‘backing up’ care, including workload, workforce and contractual pressures.
  • Demand and access – highlighting the challenges of vulnerable groups, deprivation and considering the challenges presented by unsuitable or unaffordable premises.
  • Morale - Huge issue of low morale and burnout in London’s GP community. The response highlights BMA and LLMCs survey results and concerns about recruitment and retention.

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