The ‘destruction of general practice and demonisation of GPs has to stop’, says College Chair

The UK’s leading GP will issue a stark warning to the next government as she gives her inaugural keynote speech to the RCGP Annual Conference in Glasgow this Thursday (19 October).

Addressing more than 1300 family doctors and primary healthcare professionals, Professor Kamila Hawthorne – Chair of the Royal College of GPs - will tell ‘any future government, regardless of what it looks like’ that the ‘destruction of general practice and the demonisation of hard-working GPs and their teams must stop.’

She will call for respect to be restored to general practice - not just for GPs and their patients, but for the future of the entire NHS.

Professor Hawthorne will acknowledge the difficulties facing general practice, claiming it is ‘standing on the brink of an existential crisis’ due to years of underinvestment and poor workforce planning. She will highlight that demand far outstrips capacity in general practice, and that despite an expansion in the number of GP training places, more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it – leading to long waiting times for patients trying to get GP appointments.

She will say: “Press coverage of a recent report accused us of being a profession of part-timers. The sad fact is that the job of a full-time GP is now largely unmanageable, and even working what is called ‘part time’ in general practice usually means working what would normally be considered by other people as full-time.

“Arbitrary access targets make good soundbites for politicians and might win votes in the short-term, but our patients and our GPs deserve better. My message today to any future government, regardless of what it looks like, is: ‘The destruction of general practice and the demonisation of hard-working GPs and their teams must stop’.

“It’s denigrating and demoralising for existing GPs, it deters trainees and would-be trainees from choosing GP specialty training and becoming GPs - and it’s deeply damaging to the unique and trusted relationship that we have with our patients.”

The College will launch its manifesto Seven Steps to Rebuild General Practice and Save the NHS at the conference, and Professor Hawthorne will outline the elements that all political parties should include in their own manifestos ahead of the next general election, including:

  1. Introducing a national alert system to flag unsafe levels of workload and allow practices to access additional support, similar to the ‘Operational Pressures Escalation Levels Framework’ (OPEL) in hospitals.
  2. Fairer resource allocation from the NHS budget for general practice to provide patients with the care they need close to home.
  3. A review of all funding streams to channel more support to deprived areas to help tackle health inequalities – GPs in the poorest communities have 14% more patients per GP but get 7% less funding.
  4. Bold action to increase the number of GPs – including a new and properly-funded ‘one-stop shop’ national retention programme and investment in training capacity to recruit more GPs in the future.
  5. Investment in general practice infrastructure with modern, fit for purpose buildings to deliver patient care, utilise new tech and deliver on sustainability goals.
  6. Better controlled GP workload and less time spent on unnecessary bureaucracy.
  7. Greater support for International Medical Graduates, including the right to apply for permanent residence in the UK when they finish their training.

Professor Hawthorne will conclude her speech with a call to action to the GP community to get involved in promoting the manifesto and its asks at a local level, and will restate her commitment to ensuring that “…politicians, policymakers and influencers, including the media, understand and appreciate the work that GPs do; the importance and quality of the care we deliver to our patients; and the immense contribution we make to the wider health service.”

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.