Government needs to address root cause of GP pressures – not undermine the hard work of GP teams, says new College Chair

New RCGP Chair Kamila Hawthorne has hit out at the publication of data allowing ‘arbitrary comparisons’ between GP practices, despite the latest figures showing that GP teams have delivered a record number of patient consultations.

Responding to the latest GP workload and workforce data, published by NHS Digital this morning, Professor Hawthorne said: “Today’s figures show GPs and their teams delivered a record 36.1 million consultations in October, almost 40% of these on the day they were booked and more than 71% delivered in-person, the highest proportion since before the pandemic.

“This shows how hard GPs and their teams are working to deliver increasingly complex care to growing number of patients, against a backdrop of severe workforce shortages, with today's figures also highlighting that numbers of fully qualified, full-time equivalent GPs have fallen by 713 since 2019 when the Government promised 6,000 more GPs by 2024.

“It's disappointing that the hard work of GP teams, working in incredibly difficult circumstances, is being overshadowed by the publication of practice-level data allowing arbitrary comparisons between practices. GP practices work in different ways to account for differing patient numbers, demographics and needs - they cannot be compared like for like, so this simply risks being used as a stick to beat those practices that are deemed not to be performing as well as others.

"Good, safe and appropriate GP care can be delivered both in person and remotely, and the College has always said that post-pandemic patients should be able to access GP care and services in a variety of ways depending on their health needs and preferences. In person care will always be an essential part of general practice - today's figures show that most care is being delivered in this way - but many patients find remote consulting convenient and effective.

“Instead of focusing on publishing data that undermines the hard work of GP teams, singling out and demoralising practices that are potentially struggling most, the Government should focus on addressing the root cause of the unrelenting workload and workforce pressures GPs and our teams are working under and support them to deliver high-quality and safe patient care.

"This is why the Government must heed the College’s calls to develop a recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond its manifesto pledge of 6,000 GPs, as well as a review and revamp of existing GP retention schemes. We also need measures to make GP workload more manageable by reducing unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy, as well as a return to 11% of the total health spend, and investment in our IT systems and premises.”

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.