GP access targets might make ‘good soundbites’ but we need solutions, says College Chair

College Chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne has spoken out at the start of the political party conference season, urging all parties to come up with practical solutions for general practice rather than focusing on ‘arbitrary access targets’.

She said:

“Our patients should be able to see a GP when they need one, regardless of where they live, and GPs are as worried and frustrated as they are when they have to wait longer than they should for appointments.

“Arbitrary access targets make good soundbites and might win votes in the short-term, but they are not the solution to the crisis in general practice that is threatening to destabilize the entire health service.

“Demand for our services is rising at the same time as we have more GPs leaving the profession than entering it, and general practice itself is now in dire need of support after years of under-investment and poor workforce planning. 

“Hardworking and dedicated GPs are delivering tens of millions of appointments per month, even more than before the pandemic, but now with 952 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs than 2019.  

“Each GP in England is now responsible, on average, for over 2,300 patients – an increase of over 160 patients from the end of 2019 – and this is not sustainable.  These shortages are even worse in rural and more deprived areas, with GPs looking after more patients (per Full Time Equivalent).

“Our patients and our GPs and their teams deserve better, and we urge all the political parties to wake up to what is really happening in general practice and come up with practical solutions.

“While the NHS long-term workforce plan should, over the course of the next 10 years, result in larger numbers of GPs, we need immediate action on recruitment that addresses our current shortfall, alongside retention initiatives to ensure that more existing GPs don’t leave the profession, due to workload pressures and burnout.

“We also need a reform of funding formulas to better support practices in more deprived areas. This means adapting the existing range of funding pots to make them flexible to meet local needs and address growing health inequalities.”

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

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.