RCGP responds to Labour’s goals for NHS reform

Responding to Sir Keir Starmer’s speech on Labour’s plans to reform the NHS, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said: "Labour's aspirations to tackle health inequalities and improve healthy life expectancy, to focus on prevention and cut waiting lists with clever use of technology, and for more healthcare to be delivered in communities are all laudable. But realising these aims, as well as ‘bringing back the family doctor’, will depend on the NHS having thousands more GPs, and other clinicians working in primary care.

"Increasing medical school places, with the intention that many train as GPs, is certainly necessary and something the College would support. But it will take years for these doctors to enter the workforce, so we need to see an equivalent and immediate focus on efforts to retain the highly-trained, experienced GPs we already have, delivering patient care on the front line.

"GPs and our teams are working tirelessly, delivering millions more appointments than before the pandemic, with almost half on the same day they are booked - but with 852 fewer GPs compared to 2019. This isn’t sustainable, and College surveys show that matters are only likely to get worse, with up to 22,000 fully qualified GPs considering quitting in the next five years, many citing stress and burnout as reasons. Reinvigorated GP retention schemes must be at the heart of any long-term workforce plan for the NHS.

"GPs are not against change, indeed we have an excellent track record of embracing new technologies and ways of working. The College has long-called for patients to have more choice as to how they access our services, based on their individual health needs – and this is something GP practices across the country are already offering.

"We are also open to exploring different models of general practice where they work well for local populations. But we would strongly resist moves to abandon the current partnership model of general practice, which when properly resourced and supported, has been shown to work well for patients, the NHS and the taxpayer. Ultimately, without a robust, well- resourced primary care service, the NHS will fail - and frankly, no model of general practice will be sustainable unless we address the intense workload and workforce pressures GPs and our teams are working under."

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.