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‘Do not take us for granted’, says outgoing RCGP chair

Helen Stokes-Lampard

The outgoing RCGP chair is to warn politicians that more needs to be done to improve patient access to GPs. 

Speaking today at the RCGP annual conference in Liverpool, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard will warn politicians to not take GPs for ‘granted’ when it comes to finding solutions to tackle existing pressure in primary care. 

She will argue the solution to unacceptable waiting times is not ‘arbitrary targets’ that prioritise politicians’ agendas and instead will call for investment in GP workforce and infrastructure across the UK. 

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to reduce appointment waiting times as part of priorities for his leadership

A recent Pulse survey of 901 UK doctors revealed that the average waiting time for a routine GP appointment is now 15 days, the first time it has exceeded a fortnight

Addressing her keynote speech, Professor Stokes-Lampard will say: ‘Yes, we have promises for more investment into general practice – and there are very welcome signs this is finally getting to the frontline. But many GPs are still telling us that running a practice is unsustainable. That they are planning to hand back the keys, and that they plan to leave the profession sooner than they would have done.

‘Yes, more GPs are entering the profession, but still more are leaving it. Progress has simply not been made in building the GP workforce.’

She will add: ‘Do not take us for granted. Do not make any rash decisions about our service or introduce gimmicks that might be vote winners but would ultimately set back general practice 20 years.

‘History has taught us that access targets in general practice do not work. We must learn from those lessons, not repeat them.

‘We must first be offering what our patients need, not what politicians want. If unrealistic targets are imposed on our profession, it will crumble, and if general practice crumbles, patients won’t be able to see a GP, at all.’

The RCGP previously called for more manageable GP workload, with the introduction of 15-minute consultations by 2030.  

Professor Stokes-Lampard is to lead the new National Academy for Social Prescribing, which will support prescribing projects such as gardening and singing