Pressure on GPs 'intolerable', says Labour peer

Pressure on general practice has become 'intolerable', and the decline in the proportion of NHS funding going to GPs is 'unsustainable and unacceptable', shadow health minister Lord Hunt told the National Association of Primary Care's Best Practice conference.

Lord Hunt: pressure on GPs (Photo: David Solomons)
Lord Hunt: pressure on GPs (Photo: David Solomons)

Lord Hunt told the conference in Birmingham that a future Labour government would focus on repealing ‘wretched’ elements of the Health and Social Care Act that had increased the commercialisation of the NHS and seen ‘millions of pounds spent on tendering’.

But Lord Hunt assured delegates that as a former health minister he had learnt lessons from his time in office, and he said a future Labour government would not instigate yet another wholesale shake-up of the NHS.

‘Large parts of the system are still coming to terms with the Health and Social Care Act and the huge bureaucratic changes it brought,’ he said.

‘I think a new structural overhaul of the NHS would probably take about two years of work to be implemented, so we would repeal the Health and Social Care Act in a way that would not undermine the health service’s day-to-day work.’

Independent contractors must remain

Lord Hunt said he supported much of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View proposals and in particular its focus on integrated care. He told the conference that he was ‘open minded’ about the role that GPs would play in future integrated care structures, and he said he GPs’ status as independent contractors must remain, and their strengths in providing continuity of care must not disappear.

Lord Hunt also told the conference he had ‘no easy answers’ on where his party would find the 8,000 extra GPs promised by Labour leader Ed Miliband, and he said he was ‘sympathetic’ to calls that alcohol and fast food manufacturers should be taxed in the same way that Mr Miliband promised tobacco firms would be.

Shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, in a brief video message, told the conference that he wanted to hear GPs’ views on how their heavy workload could be tackled.

‘What we do know is that things can’t carry on as they are, and we want to ensure a shared approach to dealing with these pressures on general practice,’ he said.

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