Recruitment of ‘GP Assistants’ a positive step, but they are not a substitute for GPs

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs are working flat out to deliver the best care they can to their patients, but our teams are overstretched to their limits, especially ahead of what promises to be an exceptionally busy winter, so it’s encouraging that the College’s calls for more support are being acknowledged. However, general practice will need significantly more resource and support to be able to manage growing levels of patient needs.

“The Royal College of GPs has previously argued that supporting the recruitment of GP assistants could be a practical and important step forward in helping to ease the workload pressures on GPs, freeing up more time for those patients with more complex health issues who are most in need of a GP’s medical expertise. It is important that appropriate training is available to support people to take on these largely administrative roles effectively.

“As their title suggests, these roles can assist GPs in delivering high quality care to patients - they are not a substitute for GPs or other clinical staff, and they must not be expected to work beyond their levels of competence. Nor must they be seen as a solution to the chronic shortage of GPs, especially when GPs will be required to oversee their work and are ultimately responsible. It is important that we see further evaluations of the impact of these roles, once they have had sufficient time to bed in.

“We are keen to also see an evaluation of how the role of Digital Transformation leads could help to improve patient access to primary care services. These roles could potentially play a key role in supporting digital improvements for practices and their patients, but this must also be backed by investment into digital infrastructure, alongside efforts to continue to expand the workforce. The reality is that we don’t currently have the GP workforce numbers to deliver the type of personalised care we want to deliver to patients. Indeed, while the volume, complexity and intensity of GP workload is ever-growing, the number of whole-time equivalent fully qualified GPs has fallen by 1,857 FTE from September 2015 to July 2022.

“Today’s announcement recognises that NHS pressures are not confined to hospitals and that GP teams desperately need more support if they are to continue giving patients the care they need and deserve. The College will continue to urge the Government to deliver a new recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond the current unmet target of 6,000 GPs pledged by the Conservatives in their election manifesto, for funding for general practice to be returned to 11% of the total health spend and for investment in our IT systems and premises, so that we can spend more time delivering high quality patient care throughout an undoubtedly harsh winter and beyond.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 0203 188 7659

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.