RCGP President Kamila Hawthorne outside 10 Downing Street

College urges Government to take action to secure the future of general practice

Published on 27 April 2023

Last winter was one of the most challenging ever faced by GPs and health professionals across the NHS - and the RCGP has called on Government for tangible solutions and to stop simply ‘papering over the cracks’

Fit for the Future: GP Pressures Report 2023 asked GPs and their staff teams to measure the scale of crisis facing general practice and for their ideas about what is needed to address workforce and workload pressures in the short and the long-term.

Cartoon of two builders standing in front of a building, where a broken sign is meant to read "GP surgery". One builder says, "Remember, we've been told just to paper over the cracks..."
Martin Rowson

More than a quarter (26.7%) of respondents told the College they feared their practice would be forced to close, with almost 90% citing unmanageable workload pressures as a reason; while 65% said it was because of a GP partner leaving and 63% said it was because of a shortage of salaried GPs.

Graphic of four people with 1 greyed out, to demonstrate 1 in 4
Almost 1 in 4 respondents said that their practice was in danger of closing because of unmanageable workload and rising demand

More than half (57%) of respondents said they did not access the Government’s winter support and funding because of a lack of flexibility in what it could be used for, and 35% because of the arduous form-filling involved in applying for it.

Over half (55%) of GP staff said that at least one of their appointment booking systems, either via phone or online, were not fit for purpose.

Taking these stark results into account, the College called on the Government to take five urgent measures:

  • A commitment to a properly funded plan to enable general practice to respond to surges in demand as they occur;
  • Investment in GP practices’ IT and telephone systems, and the support they need to implement upgrades;
  • The urgent roll-out of new and improved, properly funded retention schemes that halt the decline in the GP workforce;
  • A reduction in unnecessary box ticking requirements and unnecessary workload to free up GPs’ time for patient care;
  • A new public education campaign designed by patients and healthcare professionals to advise patients when and how to self-manage illness and when to access general practice or other services.
Pie chart demonstrating 65%
65% of staff who said their practice was at risk of closing over the next few months cited the issue of GP partners leaving, 63% said shortage of salaried GPs was a factor

When launched, the report achieved widespread national print and broadcast coverage promoting the excellent patient care delivered by our members and their teams in the face of intense workload and workforce pressures.

RCGP Chair Kamila Hawthorne spoke to Press Association leading to coverage in The Times, ITV News, the Independent, the Metro, Mail Online, the Daily Star and more than 200 regional and online titles. She was also interviewed by Sky News, Times Radio and LBC News.

Kamila said: "We need to see efforts not only to recruit more GPs but keep the ones we have in the profession longer - and not just those considering retirement, but those earlier in their careers, as well.

"We need a sustained increase in funding for general practice, without the caveats and inflexibility that often come attached.

Pie chart demonstrating 57%
57% of general practice staff said they have not accessed winter support and funding because of a lack of flexibility in what the funding can be used for

“Without general practice, the NHS won't survive. GPs and our teams make the vast majority of patient contacts in the NHS and in doing so, we keep the health service sustainable – but we’re struggling and we’re worth fighting for.”

Since the launch, the College has kept up the pressure by writing to Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, ahead of the Spring Budget, urging him to use the opportunity to provide urgent investment in GP recruitment and retention.

It’s also asking GPs in England to write to their MPs and ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay to ensure next winter is not like the last. More than 1,300 GPs have already done this, and it isn’t too late – you can use our easy tool to join them.

Pie chart demonstrating 35%
35% of general practice staff said they have not accessed winter support and funding because of a lengthy or difficult application process

The College has also been influencing at a local level by running a series of Faculty events, bringing together local MPs, Integrated Care System leads and Faculty members to discuss potential solutions to the pressures GP teams are working under and the impact this is having on patients.