RCGP addresses Secretary of State’s comments to Health Select Committee

Publication date: 02 November 2021

The College has responded to a number of comments made by Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, at the Health Select Committee’s inquiry into clearing the backlog caused by the pandemic today.

In response to the Secretary of State’s comment that the Government it not on track to meet its target of 6,000 more GPs by 2024, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“It isn’t surprising to hear that the Government are not on track to keep their pledge of 6,000 more GPs by 2024 – this has been clear for some time – but it is disappointing. The College has consistently been raising the alarm about the intense workload and workforce pressures facing general practice – and the impact it is having on patients - while the Government focuses on ‘sticking plaster’ solutions to address them that do not address the fundamental challenges. It must ramp up efforts to meet its promises of 6,000 more GPs and 26,000 more members of the wider practice team as a matter of urgency.

“As GPs, we want to be able to provide the high-quality care that our patients deserve. But as patient numbers rise, and health conditions become more complex, we are under more pressure than ever and we are significantly understaffed. We now face what is likely to be an incredibly difficult winter, with the potential for a surge in Covid-19 and a likely sharp increase in other respiratory illnesses and flu – and GP teams will continue to play a leading role in delivering the flu and Covid vaccination programmes.

“General practice is the backbone of the NHS, making the vast majority of NHS patient contacts and in doing so alleviating pressures elsewhere, including A&E - it needs to be sufficiently resourced and supported, so that it can continue to do so. We have developed an Action Plan that we have shared with the Secretary of State and would encourage him to implement it.”

In response to comments made by the Secretary of State that issues with GP access is leading to increased pressures on Emergency Departments, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: 

“GPs and our teams, like colleagues right across the NHS, are working under intense pressures that have only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The size of the qualified GP workforce fell by almost 6% between September 2015 and August 2021, meaning that the ratio of patients to GPs has increased by more than 10%. GPs are burning out and working in conditions that are unsafe for their patients and for their own health.

“More than 28m consultations were made in general practice in England in September, many on the same day they were requested - that's nearly 5m more than in August, and over 2m more than in the same month in 2019 before the pandemic. Of these, over 17.3m - more than six in 10 - were delivered in person, 3.7m more than in August. GPs and our teams are working incredibly hard to deliver the care and services our patients need.

“Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, care workers and others across primary and secondary care have worked to their limits over the last 18 months. Now they face what is likely to be an incredibly difficult winter, with the potential for a surge in Covid-19 and a likely sharp increase in other respiratory illnesses and flu – and GP teams will continue to play a leading role in delivering the flu and Covid vaccination programmes.

“Reasons for mounting pressures on A&E are many, but we’re unaware of any hard evidence that significantly links them to GP access. Far from intensifying pressures on Emergency Departments, GPs and our teams make the vast majority of NHS patient contacts and in doing so our service alleviates pressures elsewhere in the health service, including A&E. General practice needs to be sufficiently resourced and supported, so that it can continue to do so. The Government needs to make good on its promise of 6,000 more GPs and 26,000 more members of the practice team – as well as introducing measures to tackle ‘undoable’ workload in general practice.”

Further Information

(For Media only)

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 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.

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