New primary care minister says general practice is not in crisis

The new minister for primary care, James Morris, has denied there is a crisis in general practice.

James Morris, DHSC parliamentary under secretary of state
James Morris, DHSC parliamentary under secretary of state for patient safety and primary care (Picture: UK Parliament)

Giving evidence to the House of Commons health and social care committee inquiry on the future of general practice on 12 July Mr Morris, who was appointed to his new role on Friday, was asked by committee chair Jeremy Hunt if he thought general practice was 'in crisis'.

He said he would not use the word crisis to describe the situation, although he conceded there were serious challenges.

Mr Morris said: 'It wouldn't be correct to assert that we have anything other than a major challenge in this area. The pandemic, rising demand, issues to do with the workforce are all big issues that need to be addressed over the long term.

'But I think we do have the tools and the means to be able to address those issues. There are no quick fixes, but as we discussed today there are lots of elements of a changing landscape in primary care and the approach the government is taking is designed to address that. So I wouldn't use the word crisis, but we do have a serious challenge.'

GP crisis

While agreeing there were challenges in primary care, NHS England director of primary and community care Dr Amanda Doyle also rejected the suggestion that there was a crisis in general practice.

She said: ‘I think general practice is struggling to manage the demand that it’s seeing at the moment and the things we need to do are things to help both manage the demand but increase the capacity.’

When pushed on whether she would use the word 'crisis' to describe the situation she added: 'It's very difficult, language becomes very emotive. I accept there is an absolute challenge and it’s really difficult for both GPs trying to manage demand and people trying to access general practitioners in some parts of the country at the moment,’ she said.

The comments come as latest data show that the GP workforce continues to fall while demand for appointments is steadily rising.

Over the past year the full-time equivalent, fully-qualified GP workforce dropped by more than 370 - down from 28,000 in June 2021. Meanwhile, there were with 27.6m appointments in general practice in May this year compared with 24m the month before.

The Health Foundation think tank warned recently that general practice could face a shortfall of 11,000 GPs within a decade - and that a quarter of GP and practice nurse posts could be vacant.

Meanwhile, last month the RCGP warned that the NHS faced a 'mass exodus' of doctors over the next five years with almost 19,000 GPs and trainees set to quit unless factors behind the workforce shortages and rising workload are tackled urgently.

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