GP workload is growing – but GP workforce isn’t big enough to give patients the care they need, says College

College Chair Martin Marshall features in the Telegraph news story today, defending GPs in a story that is critical of GP pay. While pay and conditions are not the remit of the College, he has some important messages about tackling health inequalities and reiterates that general practice has been delivering care and services to patients throughout the pandemic.

The College will continue to push the message that the crisis in general practice is not about how much GPs earn – but about excessive workload and workforce shortages.

You can read our statement in full here.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs and a GP in East London, said: “It’s not unusual for consultation numbers to vary from month to month, and this is not necessarily a result of anything in particular

"The last three months of consultations are in line and slightly above the same three months in 2019 before the pandemic. Data from our own surveillance of GP practices (rather than appointment diaries as in the NHS Digital data) does not show a drop-off from June to July. Consultations estimated for England are almost exactly the same in each period, with July actually slightly higher.

"While consultation rates can be variable, we cannot escape the fact that volume and complexity of GP workload is growing but our GP workforce is not big enough to manage an ageing and growing population. This was the case before the pandemic and the events of the past year have further exacerbated the crisis in general practice that has resulted from a decade of underinvestment in our family doctor service.

"General practice has been open throughout the pandemic and GPs have continued to see patients face to face where safe and appropriate, in line with government guidance on infection control. In the last four weeks, GPs have carried out over 13 million consultations. NHS Digital data also shows that 56% of appointments in general practice are being delivered in person – that’s approximately 3.3 million face to face appointments per week – not including the immense contribution of general practice to the vaccination programme.

"We have presented the Health Secretary and new Chief Executive of the NHS with a five-point emergency rescue package for general practice that provides realistic solutions for halting the crisis and protecting the care of our patients by investing in the hardworking GPs and their teams who provide that care.

"We urgently need progress on the Government’s 2019 manifesto target of 6000 more full time equivalent (FTE) GPs and the recruitment and integration of at least 26,000 other members of staff into the general practice workforce by 2024. We are also calling for a system-wide programme to eradicate bureaucratic burdens and unnecessary workload, to prevent GP burnout and allow GPs more time to care for patients.

"General practice has been running on empty for too long, yet the entire NHS reaps the benefit of investment in our service. We need the media and the public to get behind general practice and rally their MPs so that GPs get the support they need to deliver the care and services that patients need and deserve."

Further information

(For media only)

RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574
Out of hours: 020 3188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 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.