The Labour Party leader has said the GP partnership model is ‘coming to an end of its life’ and that the NHS needs ‘more salaried GPs’.
He also hinted at a new GP appointments system, differentiating between patients who want continuity of care or to be seen quickly – with the latter group being offered a ‘digital’ solution.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Sir Keir Starmer said GPs are ‘the front door’ of the NHS, with Labour already having said ‘that we need to change the model there’.
‘The partnership model in many cases is coming to an end of its life and we need to have more salaried GPs. We need more GPs, that is why we have got a big training programme,’ he said.
Later, in a major NHS policy speech in Essex, Sir Keir went on to pledge that within five years under a Labour government, people will get seen by a GP when they need.
Labour’s new five-year pledge also includes faster ambulance responses, shorter A&E waiting times and shorter waits for specialist hospital appointments.
A Labour Government would bring back ‘the highest satisfaction levels on record’ in GPs, Sir Keir promised.
And he said this would requite a number of ‘shifts’ including moving ‘care away from hospitals and closer to the community’.
Sir Keir said: ‘The NHS must become a Neighbourhood Health Service. I’ll put it bluntly – at the moment we aren’t good enough at treating people early in the community. We leave it to hospitals – and quite often that’s too late. And if we change this it will save lives and money.
‘That’s why we’re going to improve GP access – end the 8am scramble. We’ll train more GPs, but we’ll also make the future of general practice more sustainable.’
‘As the contractor model declines in some communities, we won’t let patients go without the care they need. We’ll bring fragmented services together, make sure salaried GPs serve all communities. And we’ll modernise the appointments system,’ he said.
‘For those who want real continuity of care – we’ll bring back the family doctor, that’s what people with long-term conditions need. But for those who just want a quick appointment at their convenience, who want a digital consultation, we’ll give those patients a different route.
‘Seriously – it can’t be beyond us to offer different options for different people. We’ve just got to roll up our sleeves and get it done.’
Last month, Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting had said he remained ‘open minded’ about the future of the GP partnership model, seemingly rowing back on comments from earlier in the year.
In January, Mr Streeting had said Labour wanted to ‘tear up’ the ‘murky, opaque’ GP contract, while considering abolishing the GP partnership model in favour of a salaried service.
This was part of a promise to train 15,000 doctors a year, doubling the current figure, however GPs criticised the party’s focus on ‘soundbites’ rather than on meaningful policy.
Labour also claimed that 18% of patients attending A&E last year did so because they were not able to get a GP appointment, amounting to 4.5 million attendances.