General practice must be a ‘top priority’ for the new Health Secretary

Responding to the appointment of Dr Thérèse Coffey as the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "We welcome the new Health Secretary to her role and look forward to working with her and her team to ensure we have a robust general practice service that is able to provide high quality care for patients, which supports staff and can continue to keep the NHS sustainable. This must be a top priority for the new Health Secretary given that she has made it clear that she is serious about ensuring the NHS remains able to deliver good, timely, safe and appropriate care and services to patients now and in the future.

"General practice is the bedrock of the NHS. It carries out the vast majority of patient contacts and in doing so alleviates pressures across the NHS, including in A&E. But it is a service in crisis and in desperate need of support. GPs and our teams on the frontline are understaffed and under-supported and don’t have the time required to deliver the care our patients need, and the care that we are trained to deliver.

"Recent reports have shown that patient satisfaction in the NHS, notably in general practice, is falling, largely down to access. This is not through lack of trying on the part of GPs and our teams. We are carrying out more consultations every month than before the pandemic and the care we are delivering is becoming more complex, but numbers of fully qualified, full-time GPs are falling.

"The results of our own member survey show just how stark the situation is within the profession, with respondents reporting concern about their ability to deliver safe care because they don’t have enough time with their patients, and 42% saying they are likely to quit the profession within five years.

“The new Health Secretary will want to turn this around and first and foremost, she needs to address workforce. We need to ensure we're training enough doctors for the future, but we also need to be working to keep highly-trained, experienced doctors in the profession, not tied up in red tape but delivering patient care.

"This is why we’ve launched Fit for the Future, calling for a bold new plan for general practice. We want to see a new recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond the target of 6,000 GPs pledged by government in their election manifesto, plus investment in our IT systems and premises and steps to cut bureaucracy so that we can deliver the safe high-quality care that our patients need and deserve.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 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.