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Labour promises ‘thousands more GPs’ and F2F appointments ‘to all who want them’

Labour promises ‘thousands more GPs’ and F2F appointments ‘to all who want them’

The Labour Party has pledged ‘thousands more GPs’ as it claims that almost three million patients have seen their practice close or merge in the past five years.

The party promised to ‘bring back the family doctor and guarantee face-to-face appointments to all who want them’, while highlighting the reduction in GP workforce and the increase in number of patients per GP practice.

But GPs criticised the opposition for its failure to grasp the problems around general practice and relying on ‘soundbites’ rather than meaningful policy.

And the BMA said that while it is ‘encouraging’ that politicians in the Labour Party want to tackle the GP workforce crisis, they should not ‘demonise’ GP practices in the process.

Citing an ONS survey tracking the impact of NHS winter pressures, Labour said almost one in four patients could not get a GP appointment last time they tried to book. 

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said patients are ‘finding it impossible’ to get a GP appointment and blamed this on the Conservative Party’s ‘failure to train enough doctors’.

He said: ‘Practices are shutting up shop across the country, leaving people to travel miles to be seen, and GPs overburdened’.

Labour promised to train 15,000 doctors a year, doubling the current figure, and would pay for this by abolishing the non-dom tax status which ‘allows wealthy people living and working in Britain to pay their taxes overseas’.

Dr Steve Taylor, a GP in Manchester and GP spokesperson for the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), said ‘the problem with the Labour policy at the moment is they’re not talking about retention’ which is ‘the biggest issue by a country mile’. 

He added: ‘They’re giving higher expectations to patients which just cannot be met with the current level of doctors we have in the UK.

‘It’s a complete soundbite that everyone will be able to see a doctor of their choice. We’re about 8,000 doctors short of that, which is an entire medical school year output. It’s not going to happen is it?’ 

Responding to Labour’s pledge on Twitter, Dr Maggie Wearmouth, a GP and former member of the JCVI, said this would happen ‘in their dreams’ as it takes 10 to 15 years to train a GP. 

Dr Wearmouth added: ‘Labour must address the retention issues first otherwise there will be no one to train up new doctors, let alone see patients.’

Dr Richard van Mellaerts, deputy chair of GPC England at the BMA, said it is ‘disappointing’ that Labour’s medical school pledge ‘has been paired with the suggestion that existing staff are somehow not doing enough – even going as far as to demonise individual practices’.

Dr Mellaerts noted that practices booked more than 27 million appointments in February, almost two million more than the same month last year, and also that practices offer a range consultation modes to cater to patients who may prefer remote appointments.

He added: ‘What we really needed from this plan was an emphasis on staff retention, and keeping existing doctors in the NHS for longer – not only to treat patients, but to also guide and mentor the next generation of healthcare professionals. Expanding medical school places is a good idea, but it takes 10 years to train a GP.

‘Focusing on what can be done now to help support staff is what’s most needed – not pointing the finger at them, and risking driving more away’

According to data obtained by Labour through freedom of information (FOI) requests, 2.8 million patients have experienced their practice closing down or merging in the past five years.

Labour highlighted NHS Digital figures which showed there are 1,200 fewer GP practices than in 2015 and the the GP workforce has decreased by more than 2,000 in the same period.

However, Labour’s figures included practices that had merged without a surgery closing. Pulse’s major Lost Practices investigation last year showed that just under 500 practices had closed for good since 2013, affecting around 1.5 million patients.

The party also cited appointment figures showing that around 30% of appointments are not delivered face-to-face. 

Labour’s response to these figures and focus on boosting face-to-face appointments elicited some backlash from GPs on Twitter.

Dr Margaret McCartney, a GP in Glasgow, said: ‘This stuff is heartbreaking. Does Wes Streeting think that people should be forced to come in face to face to speak to a doctor for a few minutes for something that could have been done more conveniently on the phone? 

‘The judgement on a broken profession is staggering.’

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

The opposition party also floated the idea of patients self-referring to secondary care, so that GPs could focus on caring for patients rather than administrative work.



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

Centreground Centreground 17 April, 2023 12:48 pm

An ongoing decline in General Practice overseen by the same faces forming past GP CCG Board members, RCGP, CCG Clinical Leads , some ICB GPs but a decline fast-forwarded by PCN Clinical Directors.
Helped of course by the government & NHS England and leading to the increase in private general practice discussed in todays mainline press.

David Church 17 April, 2023 12:55 pm

Wow, staggered to discover it takes so much longer to train a one GP than it did just 5 years ago.

The Labour sound-bite is silly and will backfire, but it is just possible they are planning to raise salaries to GPs so significantly above the £200,000 to £ 300,000 advertised for Australia and Canada currently, that tens of thousands of GPs will suddenly immigrate – and it is just possible that a realistic level of taxation on the hyper-rich non-taxpaying residents, like Rishi Sunak’s family, might be sufficient to pay for it!

Faen Faen 17 April, 2023 1:07 pm

This guy is not to be trusted.

Douglas Callow 17 April, 2023 1:40 pm

Wes Streeting is populist ambitious and hungry for power but completely clueless
The very worst combination for anyone hoping to be health secretary
Weak polices Weak leadership relying on focys groups and internal conversations
Labour it pains me to say could grab defeat from the jaws of victory

Adam Crowther 17 April, 2023 2:07 pm

😂 + free flights to the moon for an all you can eat cheese buffet 🤦🏼‍♂️

Abdullah Zakaria 17 April, 2023 3:29 pm

Even if we believe that the current intake of medical students will be doubled by some magic, realistically we will have to wait for 5 yr + 2 FY + 3/5 Y VTS = 10 to 12 yr to see any additional GPs, given that all med graduates may not want to be GP or not willing work in the NHS! So plug the leaking boat before it sinks!

Bonglim Bong 17 April, 2023 3:45 pm

If only there is something which happened in the past, maybe 20 years ago, which resulted in a big increase in GPs, big increase in GP appointment availability and better care for patients.

The changes, and most significantly the pay increases for GPs between 2003 and 2006 were supposed to deliver 3000 more GPs, and ended up increasing GP numbers by >6000. It meant that by 2006 almost everyone who wanted to see a GP within 48 hours could do so.

A similar increase in GP pay will result in more GPs as fewer will leave and many more who spend there time doing more than one role, will put more time in to core NHS GP work. Covid jabs showed that the workforce is there if the government is brave enough to reverse 15 years of pay cuts.

Catherine Jenson 17 April, 2023 4:17 pm

Someone needs to think about the disparity between GP and consultant workload. As a community medical director I have spent years managing consultants and their contract mandates that every clinic in their job plan has an associated ‘admin’ session’ – regardless of the amount of admin their particular role generates/requires. The admin in primary care is far higher especially when you take into account managing the business and staff etc., but no GP in this country gets more than a day a week for admin (for 8 clinical sessions) and many not even that. No wonder being a consultant is so much more attractive!

Liam Topham 17 April, 2023 5:17 pm

sadly, when it comes to health care, supply creates its own demand

David Mummery 17 April, 2023 6:20 pm

Totally agree with Catherine. 10 PA (full time) Consultants rarely do more than 5 clinical sessions a week . The rest are SPAs, admin, teaching, research and often A&G sessions built into their job plan. GPs now need a similar model

Iain Chalmers 17 April, 2023 6:50 pm

No panic. Usual pre election rhetoric that will be conveniently side-lined at earliest opportunity.

Given current strikes on pay can Pulse look at MP pay & pensions increases.

Funny feeling they may have voted for inflation busting/cost of living rises??

paul cundy 17 April, 2023 10:10 pm

Dear All,
Cake for everyone, what an utter moron.
Paul C

Andrew Jackson 17 April, 2023 10:38 pm

we are killing our profession by not seeing patients face to face and I have seen no justification for not giving patients a genuine choice at this current time. If we have a limited capacity to spend with patients we should be doing this in the way that gives them and us the most satisfaction which is face to face.
my father has been given a 1 hour telephone appointment about an MSK problem which is just madness and we do need to wake up and get patients back in as we can’t win the argument about virtual unless it’s their choice.
There is of course a place for phone calls as part of ongoing management but the majority of our job should be in a room with a patient.

we are all happier when we have time to
learn and improve systems but this is not funded or job planned into most GPs working week so
this needs funding like consultants do
a full time GP should have a mix of clinics , QI , teaching , CPD etc

Cameron Wilson 18 April, 2023 7:55 am

Depressingly poor effort Wes! Leaving aside your non-doms will up sticks, you don’t have the luxury of time. The NHS will implode on YOUR watch!
As mentioned you have to address retention and dare I say it, try to entice those vastly experienced retirees back.
You need to address demand. You either charge a bit, or reduce the menu available.
Litigation needs addressing, nonsense that cases are settled on private costs and then NHS is the provider! You could do worse than be honest and look at other models which have better patient results and satisfaction.
You certainly have to move money from secondary to primary care.
You need to get rid of the pseudo quality nonsense of CQC, revalidation to get retirees back.
You will need to pay GP’S more,but they are more than worth it,and you can tell your media pals accordingly!
And finally, because you are going down the same old dead end,the BMA should be giving us a Plan B because we and our patients deserve better!

David Turner 18 April, 2023 11:58 am

The Conservatives have failed abysmally not just on health, but the economy, immigration, the environment, education and pretty much everything else you care to mention.

Sadly though, I suspect those who vote for them, will suffer from temporary amnesia when next stepping into the polling booth. It is the poor, not the rich that keep these incompetents in power.
However, Labour are not covering themselves in glory with the likes of Wes Streeting spouting his rubbish, and are not looking like a better alternative to the nasty party, just a different one.

Darren Tymens 18 April, 2023 1:29 pm

He is just saying whatever he thinks he has to say to get into power. Reality doesn’t seem to matter to him anymore than it does to his Tory peers. He almost certainly knows that what he is offering is impossible, and probably has no intention of even trying to deliver on his promises. When he is in government he will just shrug his shoulders and blame the Tories for the fact he cannot deliver.
How did we let ourselves get into this position? When did politics in this country become so debased and meaningless?

Anonymous 18 April, 2023 2:15 pm

No problem.
My hourly rate is £150

Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr 18 April, 2023 9:33 pm

Ahhhh there it is ……..the illusion of Democracy……
It is incredible that people bright enough to gain a medical degree still fall for this horsesh***!!!!
Blue or Red or Yellow or Green …….you get the same “bought & paid stuffed suits”
….you know the kind….like the “Hired Guns” of SAGE or the Cabinet who, at the start of the pandemic said masks are pointless….
And then when The Organ Grinder changed the tune……they sang another song….
Why was that then …because it sure as heck was’t due to the emergence of any new data now was it??

Still so many idealogues prefer to believe that “Red Team Good” “Blue team Bad”
Sweet baby Jeebus!!!!
Come on people, we can do better than this !!