The use of SAS doctors must not detract from efforts to recruit enough GPs

Speaking to The Times about the use of doctors who are not GPs in primary care, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said the following. 

"Non-GP doctors could make a valuable contribution to the wider GP practice team and delivering care to patients, particularly at a time of such severe staff shortages. But they are definitely not a replacement for our fully-qualified GPs, and should only be able to work in general practice seeing routine patients, under the supervision of a qualified GP.

“The introduction of this type of role needs to be done properly and safely. They should not be expected to work outside their skillset and competence. They would need adequate induction into Primary Care, training, support and ongoing supervision - at a time when GPs and their teams are already overstretched. For the introduction of this role to succeed, it has to be backed with adequate funding and, above all else, must not detract from existing pledges to train and retain sufficient numbers of qualified GPs.

“We share our patients' frustration when they struggle to access our care. But it is not the fault of GPs and their hard-working staff teams, but due to decades of underfunding and poor resource planning. We are delivering millions more appointments than before the pandemic, with almost half offered on the same day they are booked, but with 852 fewer GPs compared to 2019. In some areas of the country, one GP is responsible for over 2,500 patients, and this is not sustainable.

“The only true solution to the crisis facing general practice is to increase numbers of fully qualified, full-time equivalent GPs, both in the short and long terms by training and then retaining them. And we look to the long-awaited NHS workforce plan with anticipation, to see how this will be achieved.

"The College will not support SAS doctors being counted towards the Government target of recruiting an additional 6,000 GPs. A GP's role as the expert medical generalist should remain protected, with the non-GP doctor role having its own separate, limited scope of practice, alongside."

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.