Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard: Think how your vote will affect general practice

We all have a big decision to make tomorrow, but whichever party comes to power will have a huge impact on the working lives of GPs and our teams - and our patients - across the country.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (Photo: Pete Hill)
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (Photo: Pete Hill)

Sadly, the election campaign has been marred by mindless terror attacks; first in Manchester and London Bridge last weekend.

What these events - and other assaults on human life that have occurred prior to the general election being announced - have all shown is the absolute necessity of our emergency services. The actions by those working across our health services have been heroic - on and off duty - and their dedication to preserving life has shone through time and time again.

During the campaign, our NHS also fell foul of the scandalous cyber-attack that threatened to destabilise our patients' safety. GPs across the country didn’t panic. We looked for solutions - we ensured that we took whatever action necessary to ensure our patients received the care they needed, and continued to keep them safe.

These events have shown that doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other staff across primary and secondary care will do everything in their power to protect and care for our patients - and they have shown that against adversity, we will come together as a united health service.

This must be protected.

Ever since the general election was announced, the college has been working to ensure that general practice is given the priority it deserves by politicians of all persuasions, amid many other political priorities, not least Brexit.

Our manifesto in England outlines Six Steps for General Practice that the new government will need to deliver to safeguard the future of our family doctor service, for the benefit of the wider NHS and our patients.

We need NHS England’s GP Forward View to be delivered in full – including the £2.4bn extra a year, and 5,000 more full-time equivalent GPs promised by 2020. We need the rights of EU family doctors already working in the UK to be safeguarded – and we need our profession to be added to the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list.

We need a return-to-practice scheme for practice nurses, and for more mental health therapists and practice pharmacists to support us to deliver excellent patient care. We need a long-term solution to soaring indemnity costs. And we need the new government to take our calls to increase the length of GP training to four years seriously.

It might sound like we’re asking a lot – but when you consider the vital work GPs and our teams are doing across the country, it really isn’t.

And while health is a devolved issue, the general election is not, and our colleagues in RCGP Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all published their own manifestos and been working hard to influence candidates in their regions.

General practice is under intense strain – and it isn’t just affecting GPs and our teams, it is our colleagues across the NHS who rely on a robust GP service to help alleviate their own substantial pressures, and our patients who, despite consistently telling us how much they value our service, are struggling to get access to the care they deserve.

So as you prepare to cast your vote tomorrow, please consider how general practice - and the wider NHS and social care sectors will fare.

Regardless of the result, it is vital that any future government recognises the importance of general practice, supports our service and invests in it appropriately. We asked all parties how they would do this – and you can visit our virtual hustings to see videos and written statements.

Read the RCGP manifestos

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