A bold, navy blue cover image with the words GP Frontline in white.

General Election: What is the RCGP doing?

Published on 14 May 2024

Rumours have been swirling for months about when the general election will be, and even the Prime Minister may not definitively know when we will be heading to the polls. What we do know is that legally, it needs to be before the end of January 2025.

RCGP Chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne addresses attendees at an event in January.
Prof Kamila Hawthorne

This means these coming months are going to be a critical time for anyone hoping to influence political parties that might form the next government. Election manifestoes are being finalised, and big decisions will come to light on the campaign trail. And there are some big decisions to make – about general practice and the wider NHS.   

General practice is set to be a key general election battleground, with more than 4 in 5 respondents to a public poll commissioned by the RCGP saying that they want political parties to set out detailed plans to solve the problems facing the profession. 

As the campaigning gets underway, the College will be asking members across the country to get involved to make sure all prospective candidates know what is really happening on the front line, and how patients – their voting constituents – are being impacted. It will be surveying members to help underpin its messaging, issuing resources to support local constituency campaigning, and a cross-party debate is in the works. 

The College is ahead of the curve, making sure politicians hear the voice of members loud and clear. Its general election manifesto ‘Seven Steps to Save General Practice and Safeguard our NHS’ was launched last October, setting out what political parties need to commit to if they want to guarantee the future of general practice. 

Members have helped get this message across with over 800 emails sent to MPs to share the manifesto and why they believe politicians should prioritise supporting general practice. If members haven’t contacted their MP yet, they can go to the College website and enter their postcode. This will bring up a ready-made email to the local MP which can be edited to share experiences in general practice. 

Since then, the College has hosted an event at the Houses of Parliament and met frequently with key political leaders such as Wes Streeting and Andrea Leadsom, as well as political advisers from across the spectrum including in Number 10. These meetings have given politicians and their advisers opportunities to hear about the manifesto asks in more depth and learn what ‘quick wins’ could look like for a new government in its early days. 

Now the College is getting ready to ramp up its influencing activity further. Very soon, a survey will be sent out to all members to capture what GPs are thinking and feeling in the run-up to the election. It will cover key areas including retention, funding, and infrastructure. The findings will be used ensure all exposure with politicians and the media really reflects what members are seeing day in day out, what they want to see change. 

Before the election, politicians from major political parties will also be invited to a cross-party debate at the College, giving them a chance to showcase their plans for general practice to members. In turn, members, will get the opportunity to drill down into what the parties are promising them, the public, and how it could all play out on the ground. Watch this space for more details. 

Of course, general elections aren’t just fought in Westminster - battles are being fought in constituencies across the country. The College will be supporting members to reach out to their local candidates to make sure campaign calls are being heard at every level. It will also be updating its popular advocacy guide to give members support and advice for campaigning locally, including how they can use local press and social media to get their message out to candidates. 

Because health care policy is largely devolved, the outcome of the general election only decides health policy for England, but MPs from across the UK can vote on policies effecting general practice in England so members from across the UK can get involved. Meanwhile the devolved nations will continue their own campaigns on the College's priorities and engage with their own governments to affect change in their nation.   

Commentators have been calling this a ‘once in a generation’ election, and it is certainly a once in a generation opportunity to get general practice back on the right track. The College will be working closely with members across the country to make sure the voice of GPs is heard by all parties and all candidates, as the country prepares to head into the voting booth. 

Keep an eye on College communications, especially RCGP Chair Kamila Hawthorne’s fortnightly message to members, for updates about our influencing work and how you can get involved.