GPs will only cancel appointments as a ‘last resort’, says College Chair

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a survey by Pulse magazine on GP practices being forced to stop routine appointments.

She said: “This survey makes for sad, but unsurprising, reading. GPs want to do the very best we can for all our patients and will only cancel routine appointments as a last resort, but the truth is that we cannot work any harder.

“We share our patients' frustration and distress when they struggle to access our care. We are delivering more appointments overall compared to before the pandemic, yet we have nearly 970 fewer full-time fully qualified GPs compared to 2019 and there is not the supply to meet the demand.

“The current pressures in general practice are not the fault of hardworking GPs and their teams but have been created by years of underfunding and poor workforce planning in our family doctor service. GP teams handle most NHS patient contacts, and in doing so alleviate pressure across the NHS, including in A&E. But for this to work, general practice must be properly resourced and properly staffed - and currently that is not the case.

“The NHS Workforce Plan pledges to train more medical students and outlines plans to increase capacity in GP training.

“But more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it right now, so we also need urgent, significant investment in retention initiatives to encourage existing GPs to stay in the profession, as well as steps to cut bureaucracy so that GPs have more time to deliver care to the growing numbers of patients who need it.

“It’s entirely unacceptable for anyone working in general practice to be at the receiving end of abuse of any kind when they are trying to deliver safe, timely and appropriate care for their patients.”

Further information

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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.