New PM must act fast to address intense workload and workforce pressures in general practice

Responding to the latest NHS general practice workforce and consultation data. Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said:
"It's important that the new Prime Minister and Health Secretary take note of today's general practice data. And urgently act to address the intense workload and workforce pressures facing our profession, and the impact this is having on patients.

"The figures show that GPs and our teams are working flat out to ensure patients receive the care and services they need, consistently delivering more consultations every month then before the pandemic. More than 29m appointments were delivered in September - almost 3m or 11% more than the same month pre-pandemic - with 41% of those carried out on the day they were booked, and more than two thirds delivered in person.

"Yet, while GPs and our teams work harder and harder, the number of fully qualified, full-time equivalent GPs has fallen since the Government's 2019 manifesto pledge to build the workforce by 6,000 by 2024.

"General practice is the bedrock of the health service, making the vast majority of NHS patient contacts and in doing so alleviating pressures elsewhere, including in A&E, but it is a service at breaking point. GPs and our teams are burning out, struggling to manage a workload that is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity.

""If the new Prime Minister is serious about delivering his Government's manifesto. As he has this week said he is, then he needs to act fast and take heed of the College's calls in our Fit for the Future campaign.

"First and foremost, he must address the workforce crisis in general practice by devising and implementing a recruitment and retention strategy that will go beyond the 6,000 GPs promised. And make GP workload more manageable by reducing unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. We also must see a return to 11% of the total health spend in general practice. And investment in our IT systems and premises, so that GPs and our teams can deliver the care our patients need and continue to keep the NHS sustainable.”

Commenting further on the Prime Minister’s plans to charge patients for missed appointments, Professor Marshall said:

“It’s always frustrating to hear about missed GP appointments, particularly at a time when we have nowhere near enough GPs to meet increasing need for our services, as these could have been used for other patients. But charging for appointments is not the answer. It would fundamentally change the principle that the NHS is free at the point of need and would likely impact on our most vulnerable patients most – and it would add another layer of bureaucracy to a GP service already drowning in red tape.

"While we do not agree with fining patients for missing appointments, we would urge patients who are able to who no longer need their appointment to let their surgery know as soon as possible that they won’t be attending, so that consultations can be offered to other patients.” 

Further information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633

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.