We need dramatic efforts to increase the GP workforce, or things will go from bad to worse - RCGP responds to Wes Streeting

The College responds to Wes Streeting’s opinion piece on NHS funding and reform. Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the following: 

“Wes Streeting is echoing a lot of what the College, and our members, have been saying for some time; that GPs are having to spend too much time on box ticking and arduous bureaucracy when we want to be with our patients – and our infrastructure and technology are out of date.  

“We know that it is far more effective, not to mention cheaper, to care for people in primary care, not in hospital. This is why general practice is the bedrock of the NHS. GPs and our teams make the vast majority of NHS patient contacts, and in doing so we keep people out of hospital, delivering care close to home where patients want it, and alleviating pressures across the health service – and we're pleased the cost-effectiveness of general practice is being recognised. But our service is struggling and, crucially, you can’t fix general practice without addressing the fact that there aren’t enough GPs.  

“The average number of patients per fully qualified GP continues to rise and is now a shocking 2,298, meaning each GP is, on average, responsible for 158 more patients than they were five years ago. This isn’t sustainable and general practice is at breaking point. We need significant investment and dramatic efforts to increase the GP workforce, especially retaining existing GPs in the workforce, or things will go from bad to worse. 

“The College has outlined seven solutions – including funding for recruitment and retention of GPs - ensure that there are enough to safeguard the future of general practice, and the whole of the health service.  This is the best and most effective route to improving our patients’ access to safe, timely and appropriate care. We repeat these messages to all political parties - they need to listen to us. As a profession, we have always been up for reform and improving the care we deliver for our patients, but this cannot continue unless it is backed up with the proper resources.”

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

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.