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New health minister called for longer GP working hours incentives

New health minister called for longer GP working hours incentives

A newly-appointed health minister suggested that Government investment is needed to make GPs ‘work more hours’ a few months before taking office.

Neil O’Brien, who has been appointed parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), also said cash would be needed to ‘lure retired GPs back from the golf course’.

Mr O’Brien made the comments in an opinion piece for Conservative Home in July, when he was serving as parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

He said: ‘47% of people say they struggle to get through to someone at their GP, up from 19% in 2012. We pledged to recruit 6,000 more GPs by 2024 to fix this, but the outgoing health secretary said we’re “clearly not” on track to hit this.

‘GPs take up to ten years to train, so improvements before the election will require money to lure retired doctors back from the golf course, or other jobs, or to get GPs to work more hours.’

However, he also suggested that funding was necessary to support the NHS.

He said: ‘We need reform to make the NHS more efficient and prevent people needing it. But we also need to be realistic: taming backlogs and sorting out GPs by the next election isn’t going to be any easier if substantial savings have to be made from the planned health budget. The same is true for the police, local government, and so on.

‘And pay pressures will likely intensify. Given wages are falling behind inflation, the Government will be pressed to go beyond 5%. Nominal increases in the private sector are running at 7-8% further ahead of the public sector than any time in the last 20 years.

A major Pulse survey in 2021 revealed GPs are working 11-hour days.

Other new DHSC appointments inclkde former housing secretary Robert Jenrick, who has been appointed as a health minister, joining new health secretary Therese Coffey and existing primary care minister James Morris.

Mr Jenrick was elected as the MP for Newark in 2014, and shortly after was elected to the Health and Social Care Select Committee where he remained until 2015.

He was previously housing, communities and local government secretary from 2019 to 2021 and exchequer secretary to the Treasury from 2018 to 2019.

He was involved in ensuring PPE was delivered to frontline workers in 2020.

Political commentators have speculated that Mr Jenrick will take extra responsibilities as the health secretary’s second in command or deputy, since Dr Coffey is also deputy Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords may instate a new select committee specific to general practice.

Earlier this month (8 September), during a discussion on improving patient outcomes, Lord Patel suggested a Lords select committee on the future of primary care and community care, ‘identifying possible barriers and solutions that could make important contributions to making primary and community care fit for purpose and fit for the future’.

He said: ‘I still say that primary and community care are in intensive care; if we do not rescue them soon, they will die. 

‘The problem will not be worse any more, because it will not be there.’

Fellow member of the Lords Lord Bethell agreed, and said: ‘There is no massive new wave of GPs set to save the day’.



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

Andrew Jackson 21 September, 2022 9:26 am

that is what seniority did

Slobber Dog 21 September, 2022 9:41 am

I would happily work more sessions if I could keep more of what I earn.

Truth Finder 21 September, 2022 11:14 am

Without reform of the tax system, getting seniority back and reforming the GMC, it will not happen. Too many drawbacks and push factors. Not worth the stress.

Decorum Est 21 September, 2022 11:50 am

Neil O’Brien, who has been appointed the Official Comedian for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), also said cash would be needed to ‘lure retired GPs back from the golf course’.

Robert James Andrew Mackenzie Koefman 21 September, 2022 12:45 pm

Is it April fools again already

Patrufini Duffy 21 September, 2022 1:10 pm

Mr O’Brien – the golf course is a great place to learn inside jobs. Having a beer with dentists, solicitors, bankers, more bankers, offshore business men, government ministers and the odd heroic distracting celebrity is utter banter.

Michelle Hatch 21 September, 2022 2:06 pm

Why not just arrange consultations on the Golf Course! Confidentiality can be easily achieved, the GP has a deterrent to prevent abusive, violent vehaviour from patients (Golf club) and it encourages patients to exercise.

Adam Crowther 21 September, 2022 8:16 pm

Surely retired GPs are doing a multitude of things with their well earned retirement. Including unpaid voluntary work and supporting their loved ones. Perhaps someone should point out to the minister that during their working lives GPs don’t enjoy the luxury of a lengthy series of “recesses” each year in which to nourish their favourite past times

David Church 21 September, 2022 9:12 pm

When you think how many years we spent working 72 hours a week, studying in ‘free time’, whilst everyone else was only working 35 to 37 hours; doesn’t that mean we ought to be able to reture at half the age of the lazy ordinary 9-5’ers ?

Peter Lewis 21 September, 2022 9:15 pm

Do you really not get it …..
Its not about financial incentives – if it were then we would not have a recruitment crisis
Its about workload and convenience

My surgery can’t attract any applicants for salaried / partnership ….. no problem attracting locums on similar , if not more pay , who arrive late / leave early , don’t visit or do any prescriptions / admin and have zero responsibility for anything

why would you not ???

I believe the shift to locum working will be the slow death of general practice

The only way , in my view , is to incentivize salaried post & partnerships (responsibility & accountability) , and disincentive locum posts (cherry pick the easy bits , and refuse to do the rest)

Just Your Average Joe 22 September, 2022 7:41 am

New work life balance requirements in newly qualified GPs means the old work unlimited hours vocational devotion to a practice has gone. It is a job not a lifestyle they are prepared to do.

A salaried service is never going to work as the locum pay and Terms and minimal administration and workload will mean the service will need many more in the workforce and rising costs to run.

The direction of travel was set when European time working directive set max hours to 40 for new workforce without doubling the numbers at the same time when previous working hours could be 100 to 120 hours a week.

Kevlar Cardie 22 September, 2022 9:57 am


Andrew Jackson 22 September, 2022 8:49 pm

could the BMA do a survey on how many Drs play golf regularly enough to mean they aren’t available for extra work so we can shut these people up who incessantly use the ridiculous drs playing golf quote

David Church 23 September, 2022 12:48 pm

Can I just stand up for ‘locums’ and say that there will always be a need for locums, but no intention of making the whole service ‘locum-delivered’, because that is not what locums are, they are a stand-in for absent Principal, and usually for a defined time.
Secondly, you can get a locum to do whatever sort of work you want, they do NOT only see patients at 15 minute intervals and do nothing else, BUT
If you contract with a locum to pay a certain amount for x number of 15-minute appointments, and NOTHING ELSE, they you cannot complain when the locum declines to do extra work, like admin and phone calls IN ADDITION. Some Practices do try it on. Good Practices look at what they need : be it a fixed number of just consultations, or someone to do just admin, prescriptions, medication reviews, and audit; or be duty doctor for a defined period of whole or part day, OR some combination, and if negotiated, the Locum (or even a salaried sessional doctor) will do this.
But if you offer £ x to do 20x 15 minute appointments ONLY; that is what you get – just those consultations. You do not get to demand additional hours or additional duties without additional pay – although some Partners will quite happily advertise that there are no visits included, but then turn around and expect to add them for free.
You may be unlucky in having in the area only locums able to do certain parts of the job, but if you make it clear what you want doing, you should be able to negotiate for it.
I have previously done whole days or weeks on-call throughout or on alternate days, including however many visits, or demand-managed extras, triage, letters, precriptions, hospital ward-rounds or MIU cover, supervision of medical students or trainees of GP/ANP/ARRS/HCA.
Openness and transparency is what is needed, though apparently not in Government, maybe.

SUBHASH BHATT 23 September, 2022 8:44 pm

Simplest way to ask gps to do more hours or come back to work is to ask them, why they retired and what would be ideal scenario for them to come back.

Dylan Kay 25 September, 2022 5:30 pm

Peter Lewis – superb summary. We have the same experience.
David Church- very good point. We have tried your approach with failure. The locums simply refuse. They simply want the least work for least responsibility but maximum pay. I understood and was more sympathetic re costs when indemnity fees were stupid but they have improved but locums have refused to reduce their fees.
I’m having to side with Peter.