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Miliband announces plans for 8,000 new GPs

The Labour party will introduce 8,000 new GPs into the system, funded through a £2.5bn investment in the NHS, its leader Ed Miliband announced today.

Speaking at the Labour party conference in Manchester, Mr Miliband said a new ‘Time to Care’ fund will support 20,000 more nurses, 5,000 more care workers and 3,000 more midwives alongside the 8,000 new GPs.

This goes beyond the Conservative party’s promise to recruit an extra 5,000 new GPs.

Labour said it is currently working with the RCGP to recruit more GPs, which it said would ‘help tackle the GP access problems faced by hundreds of thousands of families every week’.

Mr Miliband said he was going to raise the extra money for the NHS through a ‘mansion tax’ on properties worth more than £2m, and through taxes on tobacco companies.

In his speech, Mr Miliband said that health services were ‘creaking’.

He said: ‘Those services are creaking just now. One in four people can’t get to see their GP within a week… The NHS does face big challenges within the coming years. We will transform our NHS. It is time to care about our NHS. We need doctors, nurses, midwifes, care workers who are able to spend proper time with us. Not rushed off their feet.

‘So we will set aside resources so that we can have in our NHS 3,000 more midwifes, 5,000 more care workers, 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 more nurses.’

He said Labour would pay for this without having to ‘borrow an extra penny or raise taxes on ordinary working families’.

He added: ‘We will clamp down on tax avoidance, including tax loopholes for the hedge funds, to raise over £1bn. We will use the proceeds of a mansion tax on homes above £2m. And we will raise extra resources from the tobacco companies who make soaring profits on the back of ill health.’

A statement from the Labour party said the extra GPs were ‘to help people stay healthy outside hospital and to help tackle the GP access problems faced by hundreds of thousands of families every week. The Government is failing to deliver on its promise to get the extra GPs needed to keep up population growth. Labour is already working with the RCGPs on plans to put this right and the Time to Care Fund will allow us to also fund the thousands of additional posts needed to deliver a step-change in access to primary care’.

It follows comments by the party’s health spokesman Andy Burnham that he saw GPs working in a predominantly salaried role as part of integrated health and social care organisations.

General practice training is currently in the midst of a crisis, with numbers of trainees down this year, and some areas failing to fill as many as 40% of places for the August intake.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker praised Mr Miliband’s speech as a ‘clear and impressive response’ to the crisis currently engulfing general practice.

She said: ‘Today’s announcement, if translated into action, would help to pull general practice back from the brink of disaster and pave the way for a revitalised and refreshed GP service.

‘We welcome Mr Miliband’s announcement today and look forward to working with all the political parties to discuss how general practice can be properly funded to provide excellent patient care in the community, thereby alleviating pressure on our hospitals.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GPC, said: ‘A commitment of more GPs will be vital towards meeting the demands on general practice. However, we must first address the challenge of getting more doctors to choose to become GPs at a time of falling recruitment and increasing numbers retiring early.

‘The figures speak for themselves. A fall of 15 per cent in the number of doctors training as GPs last year, and 451 training places unfilled. We need to address the root causes of this if there is to be any prospect of increasing GP numbers.’

However, healthcare think tank The King’s Fund warned that this investment might not be enough.

Chief executive Chris Ham said: ‘A combination of a mansion tax, tobacco levy and tax avoidance initiatives alone will not fill the growing funding gap. Today’s announcement is a significant step forward but we will need to see Labour’s spending plans in full before we know whether they will be enough to meet the funding gap.’