Labour leader Ed Miliband announced last week that the guarantee of early cancer diagnostic tests would be paid for by an annual levy of £150m on tobacco firms, but RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker warned that politicians must not promise NHS services that cannot be delivered.
‘General practice is already struggling to meet current demand – with GPs seeing 40m more patients than five years ago – and such a promise will only serve to create a false expectation that cannot be met,’ she said.
‘Patients deserve a better deal on cancer, and giving GPs easier access to diagnostics such as CT and MRI scans and ultrasound could make a real difference - it would make it far easier for family doctors to pick up on early symptoms and get test results back to patients more quickly.
‘However, to ensure that Mr Miliband’s one-week target can be delivered it is critical that, as well as investing in the necessary hardware, we recruit an additional 8,000 GPs. General practice is in the midst of a major workforce crisis, with rapidly growing patient demand and fewer doctors per capita.’