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‘I can’t fix your problems for you’, Hunt tells GPs

The challenges in general practice are ‘not something the health secretary is going to solve for you’, health secretary Jeremy Hunt told GPs today

In his keynote speech at the 2017 RCGP Annual Conference in Liverpool today, Mr Hunt said he was ‘not ducking the challenges’ facing the profession.

But he said there is evidence that practices can take steps to control demand, urging GPs to take action in their own practices to deliver improvements faster. 

In his presentation to delegates the health secretary had pointed to studies that 26% of GP consultations were avoidable, and 60-80% of issues can be resolved without a face-to-face appointment.

Practices who have tried initatives to stream patients to pharmacists or online consultations ‘have released 45 to 60 minutes per GP per day’, he told delegates.

He also announced significant measures to improve the retention of GPs, principally a state backed indemnity scheme, which are intended to improve workforce issues.

However, BMA GP Committee representative Dr Stephanie deGiorgio pointed out that since his last speech to the RCGPAC three years ago ‘things have gotten worse’ for GPs.

Dr deGiorgio said: ‘Three years ago I talked to you about the elephant in the room, the overwhelming demand and how we were exhausted and drowning.

‘It has gotten worse on your watch as we told you it would… Why should GPs believe what you’re saying today, when you weren’t listening then?’

In response Mr Hunt said: ‘I, respectfully and professionally, profoundly disagree with the sentiment of that question.

‘I’m sorry if that’s what you think, but let me be clear when I was here before I did not say that we were going to solve these problems overnight. I think if we look at what i said at the start of this speech I don’t think you could say for a moment that I was ducking the challenges faced by general practice.’

‘It is challenging. And what I would say is: there are things that you can do as well. I think the evidence I showed this morning, is that you can make a big difference in your own practices.

‘This isn’t going to be something that the health secretary solves for you. It’s going to be something that we solve together.’