Health Foundation report reveals ‘sorry state of affairs’ facing UK general practice

Responding to the Health Foundation’s new report ‘Stressed and Overworked’, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said:

"The College has long warned that without urgent action, general practice in the UK will become unsustainable. This report reveals just what a sorry state of affairs we are facing, especially when compared to other high-income countries.

"It is alarming, but not at all surprising, that GPs in the UK are amongst the most stressed and over-stretched of the nations examined. This chimes with College research that has shown that two -thirds of GPs feel so over-stretched that they cannot guarantee safe patient care, and many cite workload and burn out as a reason they are considering leaving the profession.

"GPs and our teams want to deliver safe, appropriate and timely care for our patients, but with the intense workload and workforce pressures we are working under, this is becoming ever more difficult. GP teams have emerged from the pandemic exhausted, making more patient consultations than before it - an increase of 9% on 2019 - but with 843 fewer fully-qualified, full time equivalent GPs. Delivering high-quality, holistic care to an ageing population with more chronic illnesses also takes time. This report shows that the UK ranks amongst the lowest in terms of time spent with patients. However, spending more time with patients requires more GPs and it is very worrying that more qualified GPs are leaving the profession than entering it.

"It’s not all bad news. The UK is further ahead than most other countries on some elements like practices offering online repeat prescriptions, and more GPs feel their practice is prepared with the right skills and experience to manage patients with dementia, chronic illnesses and for palliative care. It's also clear from the report that the fundamentals of general practice in the UK are good and worth supporting. GPs and our teams make the vast majority of patient contact in the NHS, and by doing so we alleviate pressures across the health service, including in A&E. But it does show, without a doubt, that as the foundation of the NHS, we are struggling.

“The forthcoming primary care recovery plan and long-awaited NHS workforce plan will be key opportunities to address the workload and workforce pressures facing general practice. We are calling on the Government to implement a bold new recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond the target of 6,000 GPs pledged in its election manifesto, as well as significant investment in our IT systems and premises, and urgent action to cut bureaucracy. This would ensure that we have more time to deliver care to the growing numbers of patients who need it.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633

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.