Put GP workforce before Brexit, RCGP tells parties

The next government must guarantee the status of healthcare workers from other EU countries, the RCGP has said, demanding Brexit take a 'backseat' to patient care.

Publishing a six-point manifesto ahead of June’s general election, the college warned political parties against ignoring critical decisions affecting GP patient care in an election. College chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said politicians must not leave GP services ‘hanging in the balance’ while they focus on Brexit. 

The next government should guarantee the status of EU nationals working in the health service in Brexit negotiations, the college demanded, to safeguard the GP workforce. Measures must be taken also to make it easy for NHS services to recruit doctors from Europe, such as placing GPs on the shortage occupation list. 

The manifesto calls on all parties to address the GP workforce crisis by committing to the target to recruit an additional 5,000 GPs. NHS England is currently committed to increasing GP numbers by 5,000 compared with 2014. The Conservatives campaigned in the 2015 election on a pledge to meet that target, although the RCGP called during that election for 8,000 new GPs. Some GPs criticised the Tories’ plans as ‘unrealistic’, while the college  calculated the target could take 19 years to achieve.

GP workforce

Last week GPC leaders called on all parties to maintain their commitment to expanding the GP workforce. 

The RCGP is also calling for GP training to be extended to at least four years to ensure GPs have the skills to deal with increasingly complex health needs, and for a national returners scheme for practice nurses, pharmacists and mental health therapists. 

The government should also ensure improved support to retain GPs who want to stay working in general practice, the manifesto says.

The college called on all parties in the election to deliver in full the GP Forward View in England, including at least an additional £2.4bn per year investment in general practice by 2020, and for a sustainable long-term solution to the rising costs of indemnity.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘The future of general practice and the care that we deliver to millions of patients every week is too important to ignore or be left hanging in the balance while our politicians concentrate on Brexit.

‘General practice is on a knife edge: GP workloads are spiralling and patients are facing longer waiting times for an appointment because we simply don't have the resources or enough doctors to provide safe care in the face of soaring patient demand.

She added: ‘Regardless of the result on 8 June, it is crucial that any future government delivers the investment and support our GPs so desperately need to provide the high quality care that all our patients need and deserve.’

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