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Government gives GPs pat on back

The Government has hailed GPs for taking on more work and providing faster access in a major report charting achievements in primary care.

The report by primary care tsar Dr David Colin-Thome praised practices for carrying out 700,000 procedures previously done by hospitals and predicted the figure would rise to a million by 2006.

Dr Colin-Thome also said the Government 'confidently expected' to meet its target to recruit an extra 2,000 GPs by the end of this month.

Government figures in March showed an increase of 1,861 GPs since the NHS Plan was released in 2000, including 160 recruits from overseas.

GPs welcomed the praise for primary care and the shift in focus away from hospitals, but condemned the recruitment target because the 2,000 figure only represents an increase in headcount, not whole-time-equivalent GPs.

RCGP chair Professor David Haslam said the target was 'over simple' and 'nowhere near the number we need'. He added: 'We are not talking whole-time equivalents. We need 10,000 more GPs to cope with the demands on our time.'

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said 'no right-thinking person' would focus only on headcount. 'I'm pleased there are more doctors in,' he said. 'I'm disappointed so many are part-time, and that the Government has chosen to show it as if there will be 2,000 more full-time doctors because there are not.'

Dr Buckman added the report painted a picture of primary care which was not matched by reality.

'Dr Colin-Thome is presenting a report as if the work is 90 per cent complete,' he said. 'I would say it's probably closer to 10 per cent of the way there – 20 per cent tops.'

Dr Colin-Thome, a GP in Runcorn, Cheshire, hailed the National Primary Care Development Team for promoting advanced-access techniques which have helped 97 per cent of patients see their GP within 48 hours.

The report also revealed GPs will have spent £694.7 million on statins in 2003/4.

Primary care achievements

l97 per cent of patients get 48-hour access to a GP

l700,000 more hospital procedures done in a primary care setting

l1.8 million people on statins at a cost of £693 million in 2003/4

l90 per cent of patients satisfied with primary care

l1,300 GPs have taken on a special interest

By Ian Cameron

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