More expectations without addressing GP workforce shortage not best way forward, says RCGP

Responding to the announcement on GP access being made by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Thérèse Coffey, Prof Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“It’s a shame that the Health Secretary didn’t talk to the College and to our members on the frontline before making her announcement because we could have informed her of what is really needed to ensure a GP service that meets the needs of patients and is fit for the future. 

“Lumbering a struggling service with more expectations, without a plan as to how to deliver them, will only serve to add to the intense workload and workforce pressures GPs and our teams are facing, whilst having minimal impact on the care our patients receive.

“Access to our services is important, but it is only a starting point to ensuring our patients receive the safe, personalised, and appropriate care they need. Around 85% of appointments in general practice are already happening within two weeks of being booked, with 44% being delivered on the day they are booked. Both higher figures than in 2019 – and those taking longer than two weeks after booking may be routine or regular appointments for which the timing is therefore appropriate.

“GPs share patients' frustrations when we cannot deliver the care we want to deliver in a timely way. But we are caring for an increasing number of patients, with increasingly complex health needs, and carrying out more consultations every month than before the pandemic. Yet with fewer qualified, full-time equivalent GPs than in 2015.

“We also need more details about the proposal outlined to publish more practice-level data. Whilst we support transparency we strongly caution against creation of a 'league tables', which we know from international research evidence do not work in improving access to or standards of care.

“Different GP practices will serve different patient demographics, who will have differing health needs and services will be tailored to meet these. Introducing arbitrary performance rankings compares apples with pears and will only serve to work against and demoralise those working in practices that 'rank' lower.

“General practice is the bedrock of the health service with GPs and our teams delivering the vast majority of NHS patient contacts and in doing so alleviating pressures across the health service, including in A&E. Our service needs to be protected and we have been calling on the Government for a bold plan that recognises the crisis facing general practice and to take urgent action to address it for the sake of our patients and the wider NHS.

“Today’s announcement is not a plan. We need to see the implementation of a new recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond the target of 6,000 GPs pledged by the Government in its election manifesto. Funding for general practice returned to 11% of the total health spend, investment in our IT systems and premises, and steps to cut bureaucracy so that we can spend more time delivering the care our patients need and deserve.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 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.