Continuity vital, but arbitrary mandates won't work - RCGP responds to Lib Dems

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, features in today’s Telegraph and Daily Mail responding to polling from the Lib Dems on continuity of care and their policy proposal for patients over the age of 70 or with a long-term health condition to be seen by the same named GP. Professor Hawthorne said:

"We know that continuity of care is highly valued by our patients, particularly those with complex health needs, and has significant benefits for the NHS generally. From a GP point of view, it allows us to build trusting relationships with our patients and deliver them truly holistic care.

“This research suggests that, by and large, GP and our teams are providing this as best we can, in very difficult circumstances. More than half of respondents were able to see the same GP for appointments they attended in recent years - that’s despite the fact on average a fully-qualified, full time GP is responsible for 2,295 patients, 260 more than they were six years ago.

"But the reality is that we don’t have enough GPs to guarantee continuity of care to all patients - and some patients value it more than others, with some prioritising quicker access or convenience. It also isn’t always necessary for a patient to see the same GP, or even a GP, for every appointment - so we would be very cautious about introducing arbitrary mandates for practices to ensure this happens. This would simply pile on pressure to an already struggling service, and be fraught with potential difficulties and unintended consequences.

“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 to patients and the level of care we can provide. Providing the investment we need to increase GP numbers and retain existing GPs in the current workforce is the most impactful way to support general practice to deliver continuity of care to those patients who value and need it. 

"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 all political parties need to take heed.” 

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

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.