UK general practice 'envied around the world', says health minister

A health minister has dismissed claims that the structure of general practice is 'no longer fit for current demand', telling parliament the service is 'envied around the world' in part because of the partnership model.

However, GP leaders warned that successive governments had taken general practice for granted - and said a rise in NHS funding to safeguard its future would be the 'best birthday present' ministers could offer the health service.

Health minister Lord O'Shaughnessy's comments came in response to a question from crossbench peer Lord Laming. Speaking in a House of Lords debate on NHS winter pressures, Lord Laming said: 'Does the minister agree that the structure of the GP service, settled decades ago at the beginning of the NHS, is no longer fit for the current demands on primary care services? Could that be looked at in a serious way?'

Lord O'Shaughnessy replied: 'I think the structure of our GP service and primary care is envied around the world. It has many strengths, such as the partnership model being based in the community, but it is changing. For example, more GPs are employed in hospitals.

Primary care investment

'There is a major programme of investment going into primary care, including new models of care around how GPs are structured, but the presence of primary care doctors in the community is one of the great strengths of the NHS.'

However, the BMA has warned repeatedly that the even with funding increases promised through the GP Forward View, general practice will remain underfunded by around £3.4bn by 2020/21.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline: 'The foundation of general practice is one of the main reasons we will shortly be celebrating 70 years of the NHS. Universal, free access to high quality primary care delivered by practices and practitioners embedded in local communities continues to be an excellent model of care that is the envy of the world.

'However for a decade successive governments have taken general practice for granted and not invested to the level required to match the rapid changes in the age profile of the population and the complexity of care as a result of increased multimorbidity. It’s essential the this government listens not just to the BMA but the many others who are echoing the same message - the time for investment in the NHS is now. It would be the best birthday present they could give the NHS.'

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