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Labour remains ‘open minded’ about ‘declining’ GP partnership model

Labour remains ‘open minded’ about ‘declining’ GP partnership model

The shadow health secretary said he remains ‘open minded’ about the future of the GP partnership model, as he set out Labour’s plans to fix general practice.

In January, Wes Streeting had said he wanted to ‘tear up’ the ‘murky, opaque’ GP contract, while considering abolishing the GP partnership model in favour of a salaried service.

But he confirmed during a speech today at the King’s Fund headquarters in London the party is considering all options.

He also set out plans for a ‘neighbourhood health service’, with other healthcare professionals being given greater roles, such as opticians referring patients to eye specialists themselves which he said would free up GPs’ time.

Mr Streeting said that the partnership model is ‘in decline’ as he has seen ‘many examples’ of practices left without a doctor, and that the status quo ‘is not an option’.

He added: ‘We are genuinely open minded about the future of the partnership and other models of primary care delivery.

‘We weren’t talking about threatening existing partnerships – we wouldn’t, especially in the context of the current NHS crisis and retention challenge.

‘I wouldn’t want to send the message to existing GP partners that we want them to shut shop when we are not.’

He said that Labour is looking at whether the partnership model is still ‘attractive’ for the next generation of GPs and he is still ‘having conversations with the profession’ about new models.

Mr Streeting told Pulse that practices ‘aren’t always closing for bad reasons,’ adding: ‘Sometimes it’s because people have literally reached the end of their working life and want to retire.

‘I am concerned when people shut up shop earlier than they might have envisaged and are leaving the profession because they can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel – that is why we bang the drum to fix the doctors’ pensions issues.

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‘We are committed to retain the pension exemption for doctors and I want to provide that certainty so that people know that if the government changes, they don’t have to worry about whether the pension laws will go back to how they were.’

He said that Labour do recognise ‘the burden that GPs have in terms of their workload’ and are looking at not just recruiting more people into general practice to expand the number of doctors to tackle the ‘chronical underdoctoring in some areas.’

He added: ‘We are also looking at how we can reduce demand and release the pressure valve on general practice so that people have some other places to go to.’

Mr Streeting also pointed out that the NHS lost 2,000 GPs since 2015 and that the remaining GPs ‘are busting a gut, but they are overburdened, forced to look after an extra 350 patients each’.

His speech also pointed the finger at the current Tory Government, adding that its ‘illusive’ NHS workforce plan ‘is still nowhere to be seen.’

During his speech, Mr Streeting said: ‘I know that GPs often feel that when Labour highlights waiting times for a GP appointment or face-to-face care, that we’re having a go at them.

‘Actually, we’re having a go at the Government for leaving general practice over-stretched and under-doctored.’

More care will be moved into communities and ‘unnecessary red tape that delays patients’ care’ and wastes GPs’ time should be cut, he said.

He added: ‘Unlike the Government, we are all too keen to get our plan out there. Labour will launch the biggest expansion of medical training in history, so patients can be seen on time again.

‘But training staff takes time, so as well as doing more to keep the brilliant staff we already have, we will create more front doors into the NHS, to allow patients to access the health services they need, when they need them.’   

Over the weekend, the Labour Party pledged ‘thousands more GPs’ to ‘bring back the family doctor and guarantee face-to-face appointments to all who want them’. 

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.

And earlier this week Labour 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.



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

Not on your Nelly 21 April, 2023 4:24 pm

Typical political nonsense, changing his tune to fit the listening audience. This will not make it to any news chanel or national paper. Just for doctors ears. No plans from Labour to fix anything. Though Tories are fixing nothing and making the strikes worse for juniour doctors.

Slobber Dog 21 April, 2023 4:45 pm

Don’t vote, the government always gets in.

Some" Bloke 21 April, 2023 4:56 pm

Everyone must vote! Pigs need to get to their trough!

Joe Mcmanners 21 April, 2023 6:52 pm

I think to be fair this message from WS has evolved and seems to have picked up feedback from earlier in year with more sensible stuff in it

David Church 21 April, 2023 6:59 pm

Opticians already refer direct to Hospital Eye Services, and Audiology/ENT.
Pharmacies already refer to A&E;
DNs being able to write their own stockings prescriptions would be a good idea!

James Bissett 21 April, 2023 7:09 pm

Pension exemption for doctors?? Does this fool not understand that the “exemption” is for everyone
Doubt that the shadow chancellor will agree with his assessment, probably already planning to reinstate the £million limit and call it fair taxation. You have got to love this guy who promises everything!

Sam Macphie 21 April, 2023 10:46 pm

Looks like Labour are having a go at the shabby Tories government, quite rightly. Not having a go at GPs is the truth of it.
Even the Deputy PM, Raab, is the most recent Tory to resign from the ‘sinking ship’ government. I suppose it might be
possible for Nouveau Riche Sanuk PM to resign at some stage too, and just concentrate on doing lengths at his vast North Yorkshire swimming pool, where he might play with his ‘sinking ship’ so comfortably, in the vast (heated at great expense) pool,
the size of a ship of course!

David Mummery 23 April, 2023 10:31 pm

GPs need to engage with Labour. The Tories, especially ‘post-Raab’ are finished and to be honest not even worth bothering about

Hank Beerstecher 24 April, 2023 10:07 am

A bit worrying if the future (?) health secretary appears to have no clue. Practices in deprived areas are closing because small practices have been hounded out of existence for the last 20 years, thanks to TB declaring war in 2001. Small practices are associated with deprived areas as these were underdoctored where the health boards allowed new GMS contracts, often for zero list start ups, often run by foreign medical graduates. Affluent areas were already covered by larger partnerships as the incentives (smear and vaccination targets, basic practice allowance, partnership allowance, staff budget etc) promoted larger practices. Previous to 2001 vacant practices were advertised as single handed and succeeded, since the patients have been reallocated and single handers closed, while medium size practices now end up as single handed -last man standing- with no-one in their right mind to take over the provision of unlimited work for a fixed fee. It is the 20 hours on top of the 53 contracted hours per week that partners have been putting in keeping practices afloat, employees expect to be paid for work done.

A Non 24 April, 2023 10:11 am

This guy will probably be running the NHS at some point. This is the best the UK can do? No. The UK could do much better. This is all the UK can be arsed to do more like. This country is a shit hole because its politicians and many in politically appointed positions are there for the wrong reasons. Whatever it is that brings people into politics and offers up jobs like ‘(shadow) health secretary’ it isn’t working. Well it’s obviously working for someone just not the country as a whole. You get the politicians you deserve. The UK deserves all it gets because, readers and contributors of PULSE obviously excluded, something fundamental and basic about our current society as a whole is lazy, navel gazing, entitled and cruising. We import more than we export, because we can get away with it, we don’t train enough Drs and nurses, because we can get away with it, the ‘free’ NHS is increasingly shit, because (up until now) we can get away with it, and people like Wes can end up seriously potentially running the country because, well, we can get away with it. Well actually no we can’t..get away with it. The rest of the world is watching, they’re working harder, they’re more hungry, and they don’t feel so entitled. Sooner or later we won’t be getting away with it anymore, there won’t be space for lazy, navel gazers, too busy preening their unique marvellous identities to earn enough money to pay for all the services they’re entitled to. We’ll be pushed off our perch, into the cold, into the mud and have to take what we can get. We keep on putting people like Wes in charge. That’ll be a whole lot sooner than generally assumed

Centreground Centreground 24 April, 2023 10:27 am

Somebody with embarrassingly poor knowledge of Primary care offering embarrassingly poor and ill thought out solutions in another policy of failure

Turn out The Lights 24 April, 2023 12:24 pm

Summarised well anon.GP partnership model is in the same shape as the country I’m afraid.The outcome will be just as you foreseen.

Nobbies Piles 25 April, 2023 8:39 am

If people are rewarded for hard work, they will work hard.

David Banner 25 April, 2023 9:48 am

Presumably a Labour Mandarin showed Wes the staggering cost of converting the Partnership model overnight to a Salaried service, and gently suggested he change his tone.

The Partnership model cannot survive without Partners, and most GPs under 40 do not want to be Partners. Since neither Labour nor Tories want to save Partnerships (and have done their utmost to undermine them for over a decade), then Managed Decline is better than “Last Man Standing” GPs being either worked to death or risking unlimited liability bankruptcy.

In those isolated pockets where Partnerships still thrive, leave them be, but the rest need a far clearer path to hand back their contracts without risking penury.

And in 25 years time when the government is fed up with bolshy salaried GPs who only see 12 patients and down tools at their contracted hours, some bright spark will suggest “Hey, why don’t we let doctors run their own Practices as a small business? Imagine how much more work we could squeeze from them!”

Clive Morrison 25 April, 2023 12:01 pm

It’s all prepping for privatisation and to hand over to American type health conglomerates.

Pensions will become unaffordable and the government need to get them off the books.

Income from private services like Babylon are not superannuable. Problem solved.