‘We are the front-line service’, says College Chair

College Chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne featured in yesterday’s Sunday Express defending GPs over waiting times for appointments. Professor Hawthorne said:

“We are distressed and extremely concerned by these figures. Every patient should be able to contact and see a GP when they need one – and they shouldn’t struggle or face long waiting times to get through to their surgery. GPs and patients are on the same side and want the same things, so we share their frustrations and worries when they have difficulty accessing our services. We are the front-line service for most people in the community.

“However, the current situation is not the fault of hardworking GPs who are trying their best in increasingly difficult circumstances. GP practices will, hopefully, soon see improvements from the long-awaited Primary Care Access Recovery plan, which was announced in May, and is only just being rolled out now across England. This plan includes an updated digital phone system for all practices that will improve the experience for patients contacting their local practice, alongside care navigation training for GP reception staff to direct patients to the most appropriate clinician they need for the issue they present with. This will be an asset to many who are currently working with outdated analogue systems that are unresponsive to our patients, and which are a hindrance to GPs and their reception staff. We all want a booking system that is streamlined, more efficient, and that offers greater reassurance.

“But access issues are symptomatic of a much bigger problem. General practice has been allowed to wither on the vine for over a decade with no workforce planning, and we no longer have enough GPs to meet demand. Last month, GPs delivered over 32 million appointments, a rise of nearly 5 million appointments per month from September 2019, all with 827 less fully qualified, full time GPs than in December 2019.

“It is not too late to turn the crisis around. We have launched our new manifesto ahead of the General Election setting out the seven solutions we know we need to improve timely care for patients and safeguard the future of general practice and the wider NHS. As well as increasing the number of medical graduates going into GP training, we are calling on all the major political parties for a fully funded national retention scheme to encourage existing GPs to remain in the profession and measures to cut the amount of time that GPs have to spend on bureaucracy so that they have more time to spend with patients.

“We hope that our patients will get behind us and support our calls in the run-up to the General Election. We want general practice to survive and our patients to receive the personalised care they need.

Our patients and our GPs deserve more.”

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.