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Jeremy Hunt: I’m completely responsible for failure to boost GP workforce

Jeremy Hunt: I’m completely responsible for failure to boost GP workforce

Jeremy Hunt has said he holds himself ‘completely responsible’ for the failure to fulfil his promise of recruiting 5,000 extra GPs.

Mr Hunt, who was health secretary from 2012 to 2018, has done ‘lots of reflection’ on why he could not increase the GP workforce by his promised amount, he told GPs at Pulse Live

The current chair of the House of Commons health and social care committee made the comments during his keynote interview at Pulse’s flagship conference, held on Monday and Tuesday this week in London.

He told GPs: ‘I did try very hard to address some of the big issues in general practice, and I wasn’t anything like as successful as I wanted to be. 

He said that ‘the thing that probably is most notorious in the minds of the audience’ is ‘my promise in 2015 – the first speech I gave after the General Election – to recruit 5,000 GPs by 2020’. 

‘When I left office three years later, we’d only got an extra 300. And in fact, since then, we’ve gone backwards, you know, 1,500 fewer GPs,’ Mr Hunt admitted.

He said: ‘I hold myself completely responsible for the failure to deliver that.’

He told GPs he wanted to do it because he ‘really do[es] believe in general practice’, which he said is the ‘best thing about the NHS’.

He said: ‘I’ve done lots of reflection about why I wasn’t successful in that pledge. And I’ve talked about it often because I really do want the Government to be more successful than I was in expanding the capacity of general practice.’

He added that the 5,000 ‘wasn’t a number that was plucked out of the air’, and as secretary of state, ‘you don’t make promises… unless your officials have advised you if it’s possible, and if you’re planning to deliver it.’

The Government ‘all believed that we were going to get an extra 5,000 doctors into general practice’. 

Mr Hunt highlighted that he did succeed in reaching his predecessor Andrew Lansley’s target of 3,250 medical graduates going into general practice every year – around half of all medical graduates.

Mr Hunt said: ‘But what happened at the same time, which was not planned, was a very big increase in the number of GPs taking early retirement, or new GPs deciding to go part-time, or older GPs deciding to go part-time. 

‘And we didn’t expect that to happen. And I think that’s what we have to think hardest about,’ he told Pulse editor Jaimie Kaffash.

Last year more than a third of GPs were considering early retirement within a year, a BMA survey found.

Current health secretary Sajid Javid said the Government would ‘wait and see’ where it gets to with the number of GPs by its target year of 2025, though he admitted they were on track to fail.

Meanwhile, the BMA said GPs have been led to ‘despair’ after MPs have again rejected a Health and Care Bill amendment mandating Government transparency on the NHS workforce.

MPs had previously voted against a similar amendment to the Bill proposed by Mr Hunt.

The health select committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the future of general practice.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

ian owen 29 April, 2022 3:05 pm

funny that. So do we

Tim Atkinson 29 April, 2022 3:30 pm

Mr Hunt said: ‘But what happened at the same time, which was not planned, was a very big increase in the number of GPs taking early retirement, or new GPs deciding to go part-time, or older GPs deciding to go part-time.

‘And we didn’t expect that to happen. And I think that’s what we have to think hardest about,’

Well you were told often enough. So whilst you’re accepting responsibility for the failure to recruit you can also accept the responsibility for the failure to retain too.

Valerie Jane Philip 29 April, 2022 3:32 pm

Then redeem yourself Jeremy
PCN DES unachievable diabetes group consults, effectively fining the shrinking workforce whose time would be better spent on 1-1 patient contact. It might work in leafy shires but in deprived multilingual communities? No chance.
Ditto the unrealistic 95% childhood imms, we are set to lose £1000s
Then there’s the 9-5 Saturday with not enough staff. The money on offer will be cost neutral, but we will be doing more work.
Oh, and the paltry ‘deal’ on pay til 2024, which no way covers expected pay rises for staff for cost of living, let alone increased partner national insurance .
Oh yes, and expected huge rise in energy/has/electricity
Partner income has gone down and down.
And, crazy article in Times today, more GP bashing talking of 5 minutes or less appointments and people not being seen!
I can’t think of any GPs I know to whom this would apply.
The reality is spending 20min, and the rest with complex multimorbidity, coping with work decanted from secondary care etc etc.
Pulse editor, pass this on to out ‘friend’ jeremy Hunt and ask for his reply!

Valerie Jane Philip 29 April, 2022 3:34 pm

Increased Employer national insurance I meant to say

Bonglim Bong 29 April, 2022 3:40 pm

‘But what happened at the same time, which was not planned, was a very big increase in the number of GPs taking early retirement, or new GPs deciding to go part-time, or older GPs deciding to go part-time.’

I’m fairly certian I remember reading a number of surveys and reports at the time, with headlines like ‘One third of GPs planning to retire’
‘Conservatives promise on more GPs likely to fails as 10000 GPs plan to retire within 5 years’.

So it should not have come as a surprise, should have been taken in to account and he and Dave C certainly had the opportunities to try and convince GPs not to retire. Instead they decided on real terms pay cuts and taking away the cost neutral seniority scheme.

Valerie Jane Philip 29 April, 2022 3:45 pm

It is no wonder that, sadly, so many recently qualified GPs cannot bear the idea of anything in excess of 3 full 12hour days plus. This is disparagingly described as ‘part time’ by the media, hence piling the blame on GOs rather than where it should lie with NHSE.
Many are seeking an easier life with Babylon, ‘aesthetic dermatology’ etc and who can blame them!
Similarly, GPs in their 50s are cutting down to preserve sanity.
What dyou think Jeremy Hunt? Talk to ‘the Saj’ about a bit of support and incentive rather than continuing to flog the (nearly) dead horse

Slobber Dog 29 April, 2022 3:48 pm

Abusive employers will always struggle with staff recruitment.

stephen mann 29 April, 2022 4:27 pm

Mr Hunt.
It’s funny all the things you didn’t expect, we could have told you to expect them.
If you cared enough to ask us.

Dr N 29 April, 2022 4:56 pm

Dear Jessa,

GPs were leaving because the job was sh*t. Recruitment stalled because the job was sh*t. Your task should have been to stop the job being sh*t.

And as stated by Valerie jane Philips the job is even more sh*t hence a further 800 less FTE GP in the last year.

Cameron Wilson 29 April, 2022 6:05 pm

Don’t believe for one minute your nonsense about being surprised about the numbers retiring, reducing! The truth is you were following your brief to get more blood out of the dried up stone, a role you relished, you chose to take your kid inappropriately to a/e to get a headline to bash GP. You and your ilk would throw us under a bus for your political ambition and that’s why you have zero cred! When the current system collapses, which imo is inevitable, don’t bring out the crocodile tears, perhaps that is your long term goal anyway, it certainly appears that way! Just remember tho,and tell your pals in the press as well, it wasn’t the fault of the front line squaddies! However, if history tells us anything, you will be up there with the rest washing your hands, you don’t fool us for a minute!

Turn out The Lights 29 April, 2022 6:16 pm

Surprise he dint come out with lessons will be learnt bs this kind of posh public school politician come out with in these hear to hearts.What he did was political and calculated,just like what he is doing now.Too late to change what YOU did IMAC.

Sam Tapsell 29 April, 2022 6:26 pm

Who’d have thought that if the job was often impossible GPs would reduce or leave work?
Now replaced with “at scale”, but at scale risks a bigger sinking ship.
Of course, there is “organisational” efficiency as a PCN…
But only helpful for dealing with the government red tape (IIF contracts, QOF, LES, DES, Referrals management, expanded team and roles, tax. premises).
Isnt that just giving us both gonorrhoea and antibiotics?
Still grateful for indemnity changes, thank god appraisal slimming down.
How about scrap or optional appraisal, remove tax “ceiling” to reward rather than punnish extra work and seriously slim the contracts down.

Malcolm Kendrick 29 April, 2022 6:57 pm

Sincerity Jermey. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Kosta MANIS 29 April, 2022 7:23 pm

That’s a good start, Mr Hunt. But any regrets for:
First all-out strike by junior doctors
Pronouncing yourself the “champion of patient safety”, whilst overseeing crumbling hospitals, worsening waiting times for cancer patients, hospital operations and emergency treatment
Causing the biggest exodus of consultants and nurses
Setting health targets and missing them all,
and (sorry for repeating myself) shredding Exercise Cygnus, meant to protect us from pandemics!
Ah yes, and from an ardent Europhile to a reborn Brexiteer just for the Tory leadership contest.
Nevertheless, the BMA, the only unreformed trade Union in Britain, renders you fit to rebuild general practice and the NHS. Astonishing.

Patrufini Duffy 29 April, 2022 8:35 pm

Take your friend Prof Steve Field and Madan et Al. with you on the retrospect rant. Sajid isn’t even listening to you. He wants the job too.

john mackay 29 April, 2022 9:33 pm

The biggest mistake Jeremy, was to make no effort whatsoever to encourage all those hugely experienced doctors to stay on longer. A catastrophic mistake or deliberate? One day it will all come out no doubt.

Hot Felon 30 April, 2022 12:31 pm

Bog off The Hunt you lying to$$er

David jenkins 30 April, 2022 3:03 pm

this is an attempt by mr *unt to look as though he is being an honest man !

he is actually a politician – honesty is an alien concept to them !

how do you tell when a politician is telling lies ?

his/her mouth moves.

Andrew F 2 May, 2022 9:27 am

MONEY – this about money, everything else is just vacuous rhetoric. An intention to hire 5000 more doctors was disingenuous without a genuine commitment to pay for 5000 more doctors. That commitment never existed and the press and the public never bothered to check that it did.

Mr Hunt clearly does not realise that most people do not know or care who he is and they are much more interested in whether they, or their relative, or friend can see a GP this week, which no thanks to him, they possibly cannot.

GPs quit because they are exhausted, because there are not enough doctors; the job is s**t because there are not enough doctors; the hours are long because there are not enough doctors; appointment times are short because there are not enough doctors; “you can never see a doctor” because there are not enough doctors. But, we cannot have more doctors without paying for more doctors.

Increasing training numbers might help reduce inflationary pressure on GP pay. But work available for GPs in non-GP providers is often better paid, for better hours and with less stress. Practices stand no chance of recruiting without remaining competitive and salaried GPs are not going to accept a pay cut. Without more funding for doctors, there will be no more doctors

This year’s increase in global sum is not even sufficient to cover increases in staff pay and living wage and increases in PCN funding cannot be used to buy GPs. That means less, not more funding for GPs and fewer doctors.

If the public wants fewer doctors and the NHS wants fewer doctors then they will be pleased with the outcome.

Long Gone 2 May, 2022 2:27 pm

Andrew F at 9:27
Spot on. Not much to add to that.
They are still tying to squeeze a quart out of a pint pot and failing.
Those who remember 1-in-2 rotas will suspect that nothing much can alter this trajectory.
And shuffling the three-letter initialisms with false promises of innovation won’t help anyone either. Just tires people out even more, coping with nugatory changes.

David Jarvis 4 May, 2022 9:03 am

It is largely about money. That is because they have squeezed most of the other joys from our job leaving only cold hard cash. So lets bin seniority allowance. Creep down of LTA and AA and loss of personal allowance at £100k creating a very artificial and non progressive tax cliff. Funny how most GPs earn around £100k and retire at LTA. So some of this is down to your mates in the treasury who would like rid of the NHS pension liability probably more than the NHS. But then flogging with appraisal and frankly pointless reorganisations that are pretty much just obfuscation to hide the failings in noise.
We said this at the time but nobody listened so lots just thought ram it I’m off. Quelle surprise.