‘Introducing arbitrary targets won’t help’ says College Chair

Responding to the general election pledge from the Liberal Democrats to give patients the right to see a GP in seven days, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"We share our patients' frustrations when they struggle to access our care and services, but GPs and our teams are working really hard to ensure patients are receiving safe and timely care. We delivered close to 350 million appointments last year, around 40-45% of which were delivered on the day they were booked, with around 70% within a week and over 80% within two weeks – yet, since 2019, we have 523 fewer fully-qualified, full-time-equivalent GPs.

"The reality is that we don’t have enough GPs to meet increasing patient need for our care, and introducing arbitrary targets will not help. Mandates for practices to ensure that all appointments are delivered within a set time frame would simply pile on pressure to an already struggling service and be fraught with unintended consequences to patient care – not least the prioritisation of speedy access over continuity of care, which we know has benefits for patients and the health service.

“GPs and our teams are working under intense workload and workforce pressures - the result of years of underfunding and poor workforce planning, and this has a knock-on effect for patients and the level of care we can provide. Now that a General Election has been called, we expect to hear lots of promises from all political parties about improving access to general practice services – but providing the investment we need to boost the GP workforce, and resource our service to deliver the care our patients need, is the only way to ensure a GP service fit for the future.

"Our general election manifesto outlines seven solutions – including funding for recruitment and retention initiatives - to ensure that there are enough GPs to safeguard the future of general practice, and have the time they need to spend with patients. This is the only real route to improving our patients’ access to safe, timely and appropriate GP care – and as we approach the General Election, all political parties need to take heed.”

Further information

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Notes to editors

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.