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Former health secretary to lead inquiry into future of general practice


NHS workforce inquiry


The House of Commons health and social care committee has launched an inquiry into the future of general practice, declaring that it is ‘in crisis’.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the committee, said it would be ‘one of our most important inquiries of the coming year’.

The MPs will examine challenges facing general practice in the NHS over the next five years, including:

  • access to services and the impact of changes introduced during the pandemic such as online or virtual consultations;
  • barriers to accessing services and the extent to which the Government and NHS England’s plans will address these issues will also be considered;
  • regional variation in general practice;
  • the general practice workload, and;
  • the partnership model of general practice. 

Mr Hunt said: ‘General practice is in crisis now with an utterly exhausted and demoralised workforce and patients increasingly uncertain of what they can expect. Yet it remains the beating heart of the NHS and essential to the prevention agenda – so how do we get there?

‘This will be one of our most important inquiries of the coming year.’

The committee is seeking views on:

  • The main barriers to accessing general practice and how they can be addressed
    • To what extent does the Government’s access plan address barriers in general practice 
    • Consequences of patients not able to see a GP how they wish
    • The role of seeing named GP to continuity of care
  • Key challenges general practice will face in the next five years
  • How regional variation in England will shape those challenges
  • The role of general practice in the prevention agenda
  • How to reduce bureaucracy and burnout and improve morale
  • Making general practice more sustainable in the long term
    • The sustainability of the traditional partnership model given the workforce crisis, prioritisation of integrated care, and the move towards salaried GP posts
    • Whether or not current GP contracting and payment structures support ‘proactive, personalised, coordinated and integrated’ care
    • Whether or not PCNs have improved this kind of care and reduced the admin burden on GPs
    • If general practice can work in effective partnerships with other job roles in primary care and beyond to free up more GP time for patients, and to what extent

Evidence can be submitted until 14 December.

Last week, a report by the NHS Confederation warned that primary care is the ‘greatest area of concern’ in the health and care system.

Meanwhile, the BMA is in dispute with the Government over its £250m GP ‘support package‘, aimed at boosting access to face-to-face GP appointments this winter.

Additional reporting by Caitlin Tilley

READERS' COMMENTS [21]

Turn out The Lights 16 November, 2021 12:57 pm

This thing was in charge and serving GP land a penance during his tenure at the helm of the NHS. Surely a conflict of interest .Feels like the outcome of this will not be good.

Reply moderated
Vinci Ho 16 November, 2021 1:08 pm

Well , you have to look at this from a political perspective driven by personal ‘ambition’ as well .
Remember Agent Hunt once said the job of health secretary could possibly be his last role in Cabinet in his career. Well, he certainly had not given up his political career and becoming the next prime minister is perhaps not mission impossible anymore ?😈
So we shall see what kind of inquiry this will turn out to be ……..

Reply moderated
Anthony Everington 16 November, 2021 1:20 pm

Actually, I think this is good news. Jeremy has always been a supporter of primary care and when he was Secretary of State, had a personal GP and primary care advisory group. Primary care is critical to NHS recovery, so a more public debate about all the benefits of general practice
is really important at this time.

Reply moderated
Andrew Jackson 16 November, 2021 1:21 pm

It is asking some really important questions that our representatives bodies have not asked before

Decorum Est 16 November, 2021 2:53 pm

Prima facie it sounds like a well thought out enquiry. Unfortunately the chosen chairman will ensure a whitewash.

Patrufini Duffy 16 November, 2021 3:12 pm

I’ll tell you the equation in simple terms.

The workforce is getting smarter and in self-preservation mode. Some have woken up. The employer NHSE is getting more stupid and more dishonest, corrupt and hippocritical. The consumer is unmanageable in the consumerist disrespectful hypochondriac world.

Equate that.

Slobber Dog 16 November, 2021 3:32 pm

This unqualified, vindictive individual should not be involved in anything health related .

Reply moderated
Clive Morrison 16 November, 2021 3:49 pm

I see then, that this report from 2019 has sunk without trace –
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/770916/gp-partnership-review-final-report.pdf

I am sure any further review will have a similar fate. A review is always easier that actually doing something.

Mr Marvellous 16 November, 2021 4:01 pm

His comments about primary care have been relatively supportive recently. He seems to get it. Which makes it even more unsatisfactory that he didn’t do more whilst in post.

This is a bit like asking an arsonist about fire-proofing.

Nick Mann 16 November, 2021 5:00 pm

Hi Sam. Weren’t you that very same personal GP advisor to Mr Hunt, but refused his offer of the official post (I believe you told me this)?

This cannot be good news. Despite Hunt’s dissembling rebirth as an NHS champion, his deeply disturbing record as SoS is indelible – and too long to list here. Hunt is not our friend, despite such appearances.

Note in the Inquiry’s ToR the absence of Hunt’s single, disingenuous, ‘mea culpa’: the GP workforce crisis. We have 10.7% fewer GPs than in 2015 (qualified FTE excl locums and registrars, per 100,000 population, using NHSD un-rerendered figures).

Let me forestall the Inquiry:
1. Partnerships to go (and with them, GMS)
2. GPs to become salaried, managed, employees – salaried to ICSs +/- Trusts, Babylon, Livi, Centene…
3. Babylon, Livi, Virgin, Centene (and their model) to play a bigger role as ‘digital-first’ GP providers – ‘taking the pressure off’ overwhelmed GPs’ (yet directed to provide more f2f).
4. Increased micromanagement of GPs to produce the above, under the false flag of ‘support’.
5. Enticements linked to adherence to the rest of the plan.
6. ICS Provider Collaboratives to be the intended future of commissioning.

The many false flags of the STP/ICS reforms need some honest self-evaluation and not a new White Knight.

We actually know what does work, cheaply and efficiently. Let’s see a genuine workforce plan (mk 3), and an interim firefighting plan. Let’s see realistically big investment in core GMS and community budgets; GPs, district nurses, social care; cessation of QOF/DES; the return of accountable professional autonomy; a national AccuRx contract!

Let’s assert our needs first and foremost, and not let ourselves be led further into the long grass. This Inquiry is not the right agenda.

Reply moderated
Tim Binmore 16 November, 2021 6:37 pm

The problem isn’t access to services as such. My patients can phone , email, e-consult, get referred from NHS 111 or Walk- in centre. The problem is there is not enough services

Turn out The Lights 16 November, 2021 7:51 pm

Another chance to fulfil the promise he made to his backers when he wrote “that” paper many moons ago eh.A Leopard never changes its spots.Do you trust him?

Dr Zoidberg 16 November, 2021 8:14 pm

Throttlebottom

John Glasspool 16 November, 2021 8:35 pm

I think “Anthony” Everington should tell us a little more about himself.

John Glasspool 16 November, 2021 8:38 pm

Mind you, I applaud him for his work in exposing racism in the NHS back in the 90s. The GMC’s response, of course, was to try to have a go at him. And his colleague.

David Mummery 17 November, 2021 8:18 am

Nick Mann’s prophecy is likely to be spot on!

Vinci Ho 17 November, 2021 11:46 am

I would still go down the line of political games :
(1) If Agent Hunt is the enemy of the PM , one can argue the logic of forming alliance with the lesser enemy against the main enemy(evil Mao’s saying ) or the old cliche of the foe of the enemy is your ‘friend’ . Obviously , this current government is infested with calamity , dishonesty and more realistically multiple policy U-turns. There is no better opportunity for a ‘king-slayer .’
(2) The independent Covid inquiry is long overdue. The so called inquiry presented by Agent Hunt and his committee was clearly guarded to protect the reputation of the Tory party , albeit some genuine criticism against this government.
(3) You cam criticise me of politicising this vital matter to our future existence but a political issue undoubtedly needs a political solution and BMA must not f**k this up this time against a backdrop of an arguably unique political circumstance. .

John Evans 17 November, 2021 7:05 pm

No place for politics – medical or otherwise – we have fallen down that trap before.

Long overdue that the profession gives clear direction on how many clinicians are required to provide the service. Then clear statement to govt regarding what work will need to be given up to permit safe and effective delivery of care. When there is pushback from govt / NHS leadership, the position is that the NHS leaders are directing unsafe practice despite professional recommendation and will therefore need to be held personally accountable for any deaths.

At present GPs are accountable for adverse outcomes due to systemic problems within the NHS.

Sadly it won’t happen.

Once the trainees increase sufficiently they will enable for the corporates to take over more and more (partnerships will be too hard after 2 decades of being downtrodden / pay cuts).

Sadly, the corporates will be managed by idiots without sufficient understanding wanting unrealistic outcomes. Eg they have long misunderstood the concept that increasing number of appointments simply encouraged trivia and in increased expectation rather than freeing up future appointments – anyone keen for new versions eConsult?

Just Your Average Joe 18 November, 2021 11:28 pm

The NHS is not designed to run a profit, so the only way private companies can do this profit taking is to use money meant for service provision and give it to their shareholders, and pay their own salaries.

The private organisations failed almost wholesale to make a profit out of primary care, until they rolled up the surgeries into much larger chunks, but in doing so, reduced quality of care and continuity, and started the roll out of non Face 2 Face care before the pandemic.

Partnerships are the way to keep primary care running, but they are politically targeted from Hunt’s tenure as health secretary to be destroyed via the last contract changes in 2006.

He is acting as poacher turned gamekeeper – with amusingly a lot of what he now says actually being supportive of the NHS, but it is hard to trust someone who was in bed with the Murdoch’s, and was as shady as they came back in the day. It just that current Tory politicians are so much worse than his starts to look like he wears a halo now.

Finola ONeill 22 November, 2021 5:20 pm

It’s the cross Parliamentary committee, therefore it is across parties. I have found them useful when I emailed them during Covid and J Hunt even emailed me back himself. He may have political motives, re getting the better of Johnson and Javid, but I think those could help rather hinder us in overall response. I have a bottle of champagne at home with my name on it that I will open if the Health and Social Care Bill, and the mass workload dump and poison chalice that it, and its engine of disaster the PCN, fall. Otherwise my days of being a GP will be severely numbered. I’ll find something else.

Kevlar Cardie 23 November, 2021 4:04 pm

As soon as the Tory leadership campaign kicks off (after next year’s riots etc) he’ll very quickly lose all interest and shoot off like an urban rodent up a drain pipe.