Ambitious plan, but the devil will be in the detail – RCGP responds to announcement of NHS long-term workforce plan

Responding to news of the NHS long-term workplan, released today, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"The NHS relies on its people, not least GPs and our teams who make the vast majority of patient contacts, in the community where patients want care most, and in doing so alleviate pressures across the rest of the service. For 75 years, the NHS has delivered care at the point of need for anyone who needs it – but it is under considerable, and growing, pressure, and has been in dire need of a long-term workforce plan to ensure it not only exists but is thriving in years to come. 

“This has never more apparent than in general practice. GPs and our teams are working incredibly hard to deliver millions more appointments every month than before the pandemic, with almost half of these on the day of booking. But we are doing this with 930 fewer fully qualified, full-time-equivalent GPs than in 2019.

"Whilst we haven't yet seen the full plan, what we're hearing are some encouraging proposals, particularly in terms of training more medical students, increasing capacity in GP training, and a renewed focus on retaining existing staff.

"We already have more GPs in training than ever before, and we hope this plan means this trajectory will continue. But more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it - often earlier than planned, and citing stress and burnout as reasons. The College has been clear that any workforce plan must include initiatives to retain experienced GPs in the profession, as well as recruiting more - we particularly look forward to seeing the details of this part of the plan.

"Looking to the future and having ambitious, long-term aspirations is important. Indeed, it’s vital, and the fact this plan is the first of its kind is historic. But we can't ignore the intense pressures GPs and our teams - indeed, colleagues across the NHS - are working under in the here and now. GPs and our teams will continue to need significant support and resource in the short term, so that we can deliver the safe, timely and appropriate care our patients need, without working ourselves into the ground.

“As ever, the devil will be in the detail, and also the delivery. But the publication of this plan is undoubtedly a positive step, and one that has been a long time coming. We have been assured that this is just the beginning of a huge piece of work to ensure the NHS remains sustainable, with enough people to deliver care to patients, with increasing and changing health needs, in years to come. We need to see work begin to ensure this plan becomes a reality as a matter of urgency – and the College looks forward to working with NHS England, and the Department of Health to both retain GPs of the present, and train the GPs of the future.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.