RCGP urges health secretary to continue to strive for GP workforce boost

RCGP urges health secretary Jeremy Hunt to not to ‘give up’ on efforts to boost GP workforce following exclusive interview with The Guardian

In an interview with The Guardian, Jeremey Hunt has revealed prime minister Theresa May’s intentions to fulfil her pledge of a long-term plan for NHS funding by ending the austerity-era one per cent annual rises it has endured since 2010 and accepted that he is unlikely to meet his pledge to boost the number of GPs by 5,000 by 2020.

In the exclusive interview, Hunt also accepted that ‘patient safety in the NHS is still deeply flawed’ despite his own bid to make NHS England the safest healthcare system in the world, adding that staff remain ‘terrified’ to speak out about mistakes in case they get disciplined or sacked despite efforts to protect whistleblowers.

Speaking of the widespread staff shortages in the NHS, Hunt accepted that Britain’s decision to leave the EU has been a contributor to this.

Disappointingly, Hunt also admitted that he is unlikely to be able to fulfil his pledge – made in 2015 – to boost the number of GPs in England by 5,000 by 2020.

Responding to Hunt’s interview, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“It is becoming abundantly clear, with GP numbers in England dropping, that efforts to build the profession by 5,000 GPs by 2020 are not working fast enough. The Health Secretary has now recognised this publicly for the first time, but it is essential that he does not give up on this much-needed target, but implements new, innovative measures to meet it.

“We know that we have more GPs in training than ever before, but it takes many years to train a GP. We need to concentrate on retaining our experienced family doctors in the profession so that patients can benefit from their expertise, and newer GPs can learn from them – and we need to start by tackling workload in general practice that has escalated both in volume and complexity in recent years, and the unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy that GPs are increasingly having to deal with.

“It also hammers home how important it is that Home Secretary Sajid Javid takes heed of our calls to put common sense over policy and process by relaxing immigration rules to make it easier for GP practices to employ appropriately-trained doctors from overseas, and to add GPs to the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list, to make it easier for overseas doctors who want to live in the UK, and work in NHS general practice, to do so.

“We eagerly anticipate the Prime Minister’s upcoming announcement of her long-term plan for the NHS, and we are encouraged by the Health Secretary’s announcement that the increase to NHS funding will be ‘significant’. It is essential that as part of this, Mrs May recognises the vital role general practice makes in the health service – making the vast majority of NHS patient contacts, for around 9% of the overall budget – and ensures that our profession receives its fair share of any new investment.”

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