College responds to Labour’s 2023 local election pledge

Responding to Labour’s 2023 Local Election pledge to end the ‘postcode lottery’ for GP appointments, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said: “It's always encouraging to hear promises to grow the number of GPs in the UK - but we need to see comprehensive plans as to how this will be achieved. Increasing medical school placements is a good and necessary start, but it will take a long time to see the impact of this on the front line, benefitting patients, and GPs and our teams are struggling now - we'll also need to ensure a significant number of this expanded cohort of medical students choose general practice.

"In the shorter-medium term we need to see plans to retain the current workforce and allow them to spend more time with patients. The College has called for a well-funded national retention scheme that covers GPs at all stages in their careers.

"GPs and their teams are balancing staff shortages, rising patient need and the lingering effects of the pandemic with trying their best to deliver safe, appropriate and timely care for patients. And whilst we know access to services is a key issue for both GPs and patients, the last GP patient survey showed that once patients secure an appointment, the vast majority are satisfied with the care they receive.

“The latest data for England shows that the numbers of fully qualified, full time equivalent GPs continues to fall - by 852 since 2019, while our workload has risen by 9%. In some areas a qualified GP is now responsible for more than 2,500 patients.

"Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for problems which are decades in the making - we simply do not have enough staff to meet growing demand. Practices that serve communities with the greatest health needs, such as elderly populations and populations with health inequalities are particularly over-stretched.

“The forthcoming primary care recovery plan and long-awaited NHS workforce plan will be key opportunities to do address the intense workload and workforce pressures facing GP teams. Ultimately, we need to see a bold new plan from the Government that goes beyond the target of 6,000 more GPs it pledged in its election manifesto, as well as significant investment in GP practices and IT systems to make it easier for patients to access care. Government must also take steps to cut bureaucracy so that GPs have more time to deliver care to the growing numbers of patients who need it, but the bottom line is we need many more GPs.”

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.