The new primary care minister has said he does not believe there is currently a ‘crisis’ in general practice.
However, he conceded that there are some ‘big issues’ to tackle and that the profession faces a ‘major challenge’.
Newly-appointed primary care minister James Morris made the comments at today’s final hearing in the House of Commons health and social care committee inquiry into the future of general practice.
Committee chair and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt – who is running to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister – asked: ‘[Do] you think general practice is in crisis?’
Mr Morris responded: ‘No I don’t think I would, chair. As we’ve discussed today, clearly it wouldn’t be correct to assert that we have anything other than a major challenge in this area.
‘The pandemic, rising demand [and] issues to do with the workforce are all big issues that need to be addressed over the long term, but I think we do have the tools and the means to be able to address those issues.’
He added: ‘There are no quick fixes, but there are lots of elements in the changing landscape in primary care and the approach the Government is taking is designed to address that.
‘So I wouldn’t use the word crisis, but we do have a serious challenge.’
NHS England director of primary and community care and GP Dr Amanda Doyle also suggested that she does not believe there is a GP ‘crisis’.
Dr Doyle said: ‘I think general practice is struggling to manage the demand that it’s seeing at the moment and the things we need to do are things to help both manage the demand but increase the capacity.’
When pushed on whether she ‘would use the word “crisis”’, she said that it is ‘very difficult’ and that she accepts there is a ‘challenge’.
She told the committee: ‘It’s very difficult, language becomes very emotive. I accept there is an absolute challenge and it’s really difficult for both GPs trying to manage demand and people trying to access general practitioners in some parts of the country at the moment.’
The new minister replaced Maria Caulfield, who had been primary care minister since September 2021, and will serve in caretaker Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s temporary Cabinet under new health secretary Steve Barclay.
Launching his leadership bid over the weekend, Mr Hunt claimed he can ‘win back trust’ for the Conservative Party because he was not a Boris Johnson supporter.
He is one of 10 candidates to come forward vying for the top job, also including former health secretary Sajid Javid and former vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.