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Jamie Reed MP: 'Why GP recruitment will be a priority for Labour'

Jamie Reed MP, a Labour shadow health minister, says the party will be making the GP recruitment crisis a priority should it win next year’s general election. In an opinion piece for Pulse, he explains how it will tie in with introducing a 48-hour appointment target

General practice is under intense pressure. In recent years funding has been squeezed. Workloads are increasing. And large parts of the system are still reeling from the recent NHS reorganisation.

This isn’t just bad for GPs, who find themselves increasingly overstretched, or for patients, who face longer waits for an appointment or more difficulty seeing their GP, but also for the NHS as a whole. As the primary point of access for most patients, general practice is key to helping people stay healthy and out of hospital and provides cost-effective, world-class care.

Last week Ed Miliband set out Labour’s plans to increase investment in general practice and improve access by ensuring patients have a range of options:

  • a same-day consultation – either a telephone consultation with a doctor or nurse, or a same-day appointment if it’s urgent
  • an appointment with a GP within 48 hours, or
  • the right to book more than 48 hours ahead with the GP or primary care professional of your choice.

He was clear; this is not about a return to a one-size-fits-all 48-hour target but instead offering a range of options to meet different needs. Many patients might use the same-day option or prefer to book ahead further than 48 hours. The right to book ahead with a preferred GP is particularly important to help ensure that patients with long-term conditions or complex needs have continuity of care, which is why we have given equal priority to continuity.

Some surgeries already offer this kind of access. Labour wants to help all surgeries to. So we have committed to invest an extra £100 million a year in general practice, to help ease pressures and support the delivery of these new standards. It will be for surgeries themselves to determine how to use these extra resources and over the next year we will be talking with the profession about the best way to make this extra investment, whether through the contract or as an enhanced service.

At the same time we will make savings by scrapping the competition framework that the Government has put in place, something that many commissioners say is forcing them to put services out to tender and hindering service improvement. There won’t be another reorganisation – we will work with the organisations we inherit, including CCGs – but we will put the right values back at the heart of the NHS.

We know we can’t improve access without more GPs, especially in areas of the country with shortages. The last Labour Government increased GPs to record levels, but numbers have slipped back since 2009/10. Worryingly, the Government is far off meeting its stated goal of 3,250 training places a year.

That’s why GP recruitment will be a priority for Labour. This will require action on a range of fronts: from better promotion of general practice as a career choice to medical students to efforts to support GP returners back to work. There may be a need, too, for specific initiatives to encourage recruitment in under-doctored areas.

There are also many other challenges facing general practice, including theits pivotal role in leading care coordination and managing complex patients, the shift from small organisations to federations or networks, the increasing use of e-health and remote care, the need to invest in improving premises, and the need to improve retention – including through better training and development opportunities for doctors, nurses and other practice staff. Over the next year, Labour wants to work with the profession to help shape a vision for meeting these challenges, one that places primary care right at the heart of the future NHS.

Ultimately, better access to primary care is not only right for patients, but for the whole NHS. It has the potential to help make dramatic savings by reducing the need for more expensive hospital care, as well as improving outcomes and patient experience.

We want our extra £100m investment to help kick-start a virtuous circle of reducing avoidable hospital admissions, and facilitating further investment in primary and community care. That is why general practice is central to Labour’s plan to ensure the NHS survives the pressures ahead.

Jamie Reed MP is shadow health minister and Labour MP for Copeland

Readers' comments (10)

  • 'from better promotion of general practice as a career choice to medical students to efforts to support GP returners back to work. There may be a need, too, for specific initiatives to encourage recruitment in under-doctored areas.' How will labour achieve that ?
    We are asked to do more for less, accused of being lazy fat cats , constantly blamed for everything going wrong in the NHS.
    If Labour thinks that £100 m would guarantee every patients an appointment with a GP in 48 they are deluded. It would only increase pressure on over stretched GPs and would worsened the recruitment crisis.

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  • Bob Hodges

    Right now, if we had £10 per patient additional funding, it would ALL go on recruiting additional doctor and nurse time if we could recruit. (So we need £500m not £100m ASAP right now).

    That £60k would fund an additional 2 days per week of doctor time and days of additional nurse time.

    With that, we could meet the 48 hour criteria as Mr Reed describes them. Becasue it would also give us the time to work more collaboratively with local colleagues instead of speand 12 hours per day, day in, day out fire fighting.

    If one puts the philosophical arguments about improved access just increasing demand, the 48 hr target is on the face of it not unreasable.

    We currently will speak to everone on the day who believes that they are 'urgent' and see them if necessary. We also have a lot of 'on the day appointments'. The down side is that the wait to book a standard appointment with me is now 4-5 weeks. We're keeping everone alive, but it's not the level of 'service' that we aspire to to.

    The trajectory of decline is alarming due to rising demand, much of it genuine, but much of it also simply the tresult of hospitals dumping ill people back at home with no follow up plan.

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  • We need trained GP's now, by the time our current GP's retire, the NHS will have died an early death.

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  • Look at this guy!
    All these young politicians look exactly the same!
    Are they selected for the public eye because they all look like new geography teachers?
    But this one doesn't even look old enough to shave.
    Yet he is making silly and grandiose public soundbites about a job I have been doing for 26 years and about which he knows absolutely nothing.
    Where has it all gone wrong?

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  • You can lead a horse to water but......well you know the rest!

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  • Do any politicians actually think that the public has any faith in them when they say one thing and do another whilst continuing to decimate public services... really?

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Strange how Labour now want to be seen as the friend of the GP? It was Brown that introduced extended hours or a 10% pay cut. Of course, the BMA did nothing.

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  • Labour should distance itself from Tony Blair's ultra conservative policies ,resort to Michel Foot's old labour policies to win the elections and help the NHS and the public

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  • Why would anybody sensible want to be a GP when MPIG that was promised to be perpetual is withdrawn and practices go to the wall, bankrupt, in spite of each GP seeing in excess of 40 patients each day. In Eire , such a day would earn take home pay of £1000 .
    If we allow GP practices to go bankrupt, there is a lesson for aspiring GPs - stay clear of this mess, they will torture you with work, burn you out and let you go bust.

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  • Well, he is right about one thing-problems can only be solved by increased man(and woman) power.
    The BMA should involve itself in next year's election by rubbishing any pie-in-the-sky promises made by any political party.

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