The health secretary has praised GPs’ hard work ‘away from the public eye’ and once again pledged to cut bureaucracy for practices.
It comes amid ongoing controversy over whether practices have been open to the public.
Speaking at the RCGP’s annual conference, Matt Hancock thanked virtual delegates for their ‘hard work’, ‘perseverance’ and ‘dedication’, including their ‘enormous effort’ to identify and support shielding patients.
He said: ‘GPs are the bedrock of the NHS and in the greatest public health emergency of our generation, our GPs were helping our health system to stand firm.
‘Often this is away from the public eye and often it’s done quietly and in our communities.’
He added that the Government has done its ‘best’ to support GPs through providing IT equipment and funding such as the Covid support fund and will ‘strain every sinew to help you to help others this winter and beyond’.
Mr Hancock said: ‘I know that this was a difficult time for our GPs but we did our best [and] made it our mission to give the best possible support to GPs across the country.’
The health secretary also used his address to reiterate promises to ‘bust bureaucracy’ in general practice, among the ‘positive changes’ brought about by the pandemic that will be taken forward.
The GP bureaucracy consultation – now closed – that he launched over the summer garnered ‘over 1,000 suggestions for where things can be improved’, he told delegates.
And the Government will now look through previous reports ‘that have been written but not acted on’ to see their recommendations, he added.
He said: ‘I know this has been talked about in the past and I know that there have been various reports on trying to bust bureaucracy, so what we’re doing is going back to all those reports that have been written but not acted on and picking up their recommendations too.’
Earlier this month, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said general practice became ‘a doable job’ again following a 28% decline in bureaucracy due to the Covid-19 crisis.
In July, the BMA and RCGP joined a Government working group on ‘renewal and recovery’ in general practice, set up to feed into the bureaucracy review promised in the 2020/21 GP contract.
Last month, the BMA’s GP Committee warned that GPs will not be able to cope with a second wave of Covid-19 unless routine CQC inspections and QOF reporting is paused again, as happened during the first wave of the pandemic.