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GP workforce must be expanded to deal with long-term conditions, influential MPs say

The growing number of patients living with multiple long-term health conditions will cause a £5bn-a-year NHS budget shortfall unless the GP workforce is expanded and equipped to deal with the problem, an influential committee of MPs has said.

In a new report published today, the House of Commons Health Committee said the Government’s focus on reducing unplanned admissions – which includes rolling out the new unplanned admissions DES – did not address the underlying issues of why these patients end up clogging acute care.

The chair of the committee told Pulse that the unplanned admissions DES would not be enough ‘on its own’.

The report found that care for LTCs accounts for ‘55% of GP appointments, 68% of outpatient and A&E appointments and 77% of inpatient bed days’.

It added: ‘Cost pressures on the health and care system deriving from management of LTCs and treatment of the increasing prevalence of comorbidities is likely to add £5 billion to the annual costs of the system between 2011 and 2018.’

The MPs said they were ‘not convinced that focusing on measures to reduce admissions to the acute sector will effectively address the underlying issues in management of LTCs’.

They further warned that unless the shortage of GPs was addressed ‘as a matter of urgency’ primary care would not be able to continue to take on more work relating to long-term conditions.

The report added: ‘If more treatment of LTCs is to take place in primary and community care, then the recruitment and workforce planning required must take place as a matter of urgency, in particular to address a work force shortfall in primary care already identified by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence.’

The committee quoted evidence from the RCGP to the enquiry, which said: ‘We need a robust long-term approach to workforce planning, led by Health Education England, to ensure that patients with long-term conditions are supported by an adequate GP workforce.’

Health committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Totnes MP and former GP, told Pulse: ‘The unplanned admissions DES is a step in the right direction but that, on its own, is not going to be enough.’