Labour has pledged to remove ‘burdensome’ bureaucracy that is ‘grinding GPs down’, in return for continuity of care.
Labour’s shadow health minister Karin Smyth said during a speech at the Institute for Government’s annual conference today that the party will ‘remove targets’ that take GPs ‘away from the things that really matter’.
Ms Smyth, filling in for shadow health secretary Wes Streeting who was unable to attend the conference due to illness, said: ‘We will set a Red Tape challenge for GPs and remove the unnecessary bureaucracy and targets which GPs say take up their time, and takes them away from the things that really matter.
‘In return, we will bring back the family doctor, so patients can see their regular GP each appointment, if they choose to.’
She added that GPs are experienced doctors ‘made to do millions of tick-box appointments’.
‘They’re even made to fill out forms about how burnt out they are. If ministers bothered to ask GPs why they are so exhausted, they would know it’s largely down to burdensome bureaucracy grinding them down,’ she said.
Last year, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said GPs should focus on caring for patients ‘rather than the admin that comes with effectively running a small business’, which would involve patients being able to self-refer.
Earlier, the party has revealed plans to conduct a shake-up of GP services to create new ‘neighbourhood health centres’, if it wins the next general election.
However, GPs have said that while measures to cut bureaucracy will be welcome, the focus needs to be on fairer funding for general practice.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer said that it was ‘great’ hearing Labour’s vision for the NHS and that ‘the answer’ is to ‘fund GP surgeries’.
However, Plymouth GP Dr Rachel Ali, speaking on behalf of the Rebuild General Practice campaign, said: ‘GPs absolutely should be focused on seeing and treating our patients, doing less admin and cutting out the bureaucracy.
‘But this alone won’t fix the crisis in general practice. Rebuild General Practice has been calling for a plan to retain GPs, fairer funding, and greater autonomy within our profession for years.
‘We ask all parties to listen to GPs so we can fix the broken system, which continues to have negative knock-on effects for all of the NHS.’
In October, Mr Streeting said that he recognised the ‘value GP partners provide’, after spending time in general practice.
He also said he ‘made it very clear’ to hospitals that any funding that becomes ‘available’ under a Labour Government would go to primary care and other non-acute sectors.
Earlier this year, the Labour party promised to ‘bring back the family doctor and guarantee face-to-face appointments to all who want them’.