The Tory manifesto launched yesterday by prime minister Theresa May made no mention of the pledge made by the previous regime ahead of the 2015 election. But a Conservative party source has confirmed to GPonline that the party remains committed to meeting the target if it forms the next government.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt first announced the plan to ‘train and retain an extra 5,000 GPs’ at the Conservative conference in autumn 2014. The promise was criticised as unrealistic by GPs at the time. The RCGP said 5,000 was not enough, but predicted the pledge could take 19 years to achieve.
Shortly after the surprise 2015 general election victory, re-appointed health secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted he had not been 'expecting to win the election’, and went on to soften the 5,000 GPs target from a minimum to ‘the maximum’ achievable.
The promise to recruit an additional 5,000 FTE GPs compared with 2014 now forms part of NHS England’s GP Forward View. But the target was dealt a fresh blow in May when figures showed the workforce had shrunk by 445 in the last quarter of 2016.
The RCGP has called on all parties in the election to commit to meeting the target.
The Tory manifesto said the party would extend the current NHS funding trajectory, with a minimum of £8bn over the course of the next parliament.
It also brought forward by a year the government’s target for every patient in England to have access to seven-day GP services from 2020 to 2019.
GPonline understands that a line promising a ‘new GP contract to develop wider primary care services’ is likely to refer to previously announced voluntary, multispecialty community provider (MCP)-type contracts.
Other measures in the Tory manifesto include:
- Ensuring the rights of EU NHS staff a priority on Brexit negotiations.
- Appropriate funding for GPs to meet rising costs of indemnity in the short term while working with the profession to introduce a sustainable long-term solution.
- Legislative and structural barriers to integration, including the internal market, could be removed to enable the NHS to implement its sustainability and transformation (STP) plans.
- Building and upgrading primary care facilities, mental health clinics and hospitals in every part of England with ‘the most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology the NHS has ever seen’.
- Reform and rationalise the current outdated system of professional regulation of healthcare professions.
- Further expand the use of personal budgets.
- recruit up to 10,000 more mental health professionals.
King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said the Tory NHS spending pledge did ‘little more than extend the squeeze on NHS finances for another two years and will not be enough to meet rising demand for services and maintain current standards of care’.
Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said: ‘The pledge of a further £8bn by 2022/23, above 2017/18 spending, does not get us to a long-term funding settlement to support this. It is unclear how much new money this represents, or exactly when it would come onstream,' he said.