MPs launch inquiry into future of general practice - warning profession is 'in crisis'

General practice is the 'beating heart of the NHS' but is in crisis with an 'utterly exhausted and demoralised workforce', MPs have warned as they launched an urgent inquiry into the future of the profession.

Portcullis House, Westminster (Photo: Justin Tallis/Getty Images)

The House of Commons health and social care select committee has launched a call for evidence that will run until 14 December as part of an inquiry it says will be among its most important over the coming year.

The committee's inquiry into the future of general practice comes after months of intense pressure on GPs over access to face-to-face care, and amid intense workload pressure driven by soaring demand for appointments and a chronic workforce crisis.

The inquiry's launch comes just weeks after health and social care secretary Sajid Javid admitted in evidence to the select committee that the government was not on track to deliver its manifesto pledge to increase the full-time equivalent GP workforce by 6,000 by 2024.

Face-to-face care

Meanwhile, GP practices delivered 28.7m appointments in September this year - including more than 17m face-to-face and more than 10m by telephone, with in-person appointments continuing to surge.

The inquiry will 'examine challenges facing general practice in the NHS over the next five years', and will 'consider access to services and the impact of changes introduced during the pandemic'.

It will also look at 'barriers to accessing services and the extent to which the government and NHS England’s plans will address these issues'.

Plans unveiled earlier this year by NHS England and the government on GP access have been widely condemned by the profession for increasing pressure at a time when general practice needs more support - and have triggered an indicative BMA ballot over potential industrial action.

GP workload

The review will also look at 'regional variation in general practice, the general practice workload, and the partnership model'.

Health and social care committee chair Jeremy Hunt said: 'General practice is in crisis now with an utterly exhausted and demoralised workforce and patients increasingly uncertain of what they can expect.

'Yet it remains the beating heart of the NHS and essential to the prevention agenda - so how do we get there? This will be one of our most important inquiries of the coming year.'

Terms of reference for the inquiry:

The Committee invites written submissions addressing any, or all, of the following points: 

  • What are the main barriers to accessing general practice and how can these be tackled? To what extent does the Government and NHS England’s plan for improving access for patients and supporting general practice address these barriers? What are the impacts when patients are unable to access general practice using their preferred method? What role does having a named GP - and being able to see that GP - play in providing patients with the continuity of care they need?
  • What are the main challenges facing general practice in the next five years? 
  • How does regional variation shape the challenges facing general practice in different parts of England, including rural areas? 
  • What part should general practice play in the prevention agenda? 
  • What can be done to reduce bureaucracy and burnout, and improve morale, in general practice?  
  • How can the current model of general practice be improved to make it more sustainable in the long term? In particular:  Is the traditional partnership model in general practice sustainable given recruitment challenges, the prioritisation of integrated care and the shift towards salaried GP posts? Do the current contracting and payment systems in general practice encourage proactive, personalised, co-ordinated and integrated care? Has the development of PCNs improved the delivery of proactive, personalised, coordinated and integrated care and reduced the administrative burden on GPs? To what extent has general practice been able to work in effective partnerships with other professions within primary care and beyond to free more GP time for patient care? 

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