NHS pressures not confined to hospitals: immediate action needed to tackle GP workload and workforce pressures

Responding to Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer’s speech this morning, in which he referenced how difficult it was to get a GP appointments, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the following:

“GPs are just as frustrated as our patients when they have difficulty accessing an appointment quickly, but our teams will always do our very best to make sure those most in need receive timely, safe and appropriate care. We want to be able to deliver the care that patients need when they need it, but more than a decade of underinvestment in general practice, and historic poor workforce planning, has resulted in a significantly overstretched workforce. General practice was struggling before the pandemic, but the crisis has only exacerbated the intense workload and workforce pressures we are working under.

"Current pressures in the NHS are not confined to hospitals. General practice has been working to its limits and still faces tough months ahead, which won't be helped by high numbers of staff falling sick or having to isolate due to testing positive for Covid.

“GPs and our teams are working exceptionally hard to deliver good, safe and appropriate care to our patients. More than 34 million consultations were delivered in November - the highest monthly number on record. We have also played a vital role in the Covid booster vaccination programme, working with colleagues across the NHS to deliver almost a million vaccinations a day towards the end of December, each jab protecting patients.

“Workload is escalating while GP numbers are falling. The size of the qualified workforce fell by almost 6% between September 2015 and August 2021 while the number of patients has continued to grow meaning that the ratio of patients to GPs has increased by more than 10%. The Government must make good on their manifesto pledge of an additional 6000 GPs and 26,000 members of the practice team by 2024, so that GPs and our teams can deliver the safe and appropriate care our patients need. We specifically need to see robust plans put in place to keep highly-trained, experienced GPs in the workforce for longer, and that needs to start by tackling ‘undoable’ workload in general practice to stop exhausted GPs burning out and leaving the profession earlier than planned.”

Further information

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RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
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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.