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We must convince graduates that general practice is ‘exciting’, says Ashworth



Exclusive Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has said Labour must convince medical graduates that general practice is a ‘really exciting’ profession, in an interview with Pulse.

Mr Ashworth told Pulse he respects GP trainees and that a Labour government wants more, following the party’s recent announcement to expand the number of GP training places by 40% – to 5,000 a year.

The Labour MP for Leicester South said he knows the ‘tremendous pressures’ GPs face but added he wants to send a message that general practice is ‘hugely rewarding.’

He said: ‘We’ve got to convince medical graduates that general practice is really exciting. We’ve got a big agenda on health inequalities. We’ve got a big agenda to really tackle these differences in life expectancies in our poorer and more deprived areas.

‘Given that it is going to be such a focus of mine as health secretary, really putting wellbeing at the heart of our policy agenda, I hope we’ll be able to show from a national level that general practice is the place to be. I’m not able to deliver my health inequalities agenda unless I’ve got general practice fully part of that.

‘From my point of view, I hope we’re sending a message that general practice is hugely rewarding. We respect you and we want more of you.’

The Labour party has pledged a £2.5 billion investment into primary care estate, alongside increasing the number of GP training places in England to 5,000 a year – up from the current number of around 3,500.

Mr Ashworth acknowledged the measures will take time to have an impact, but said the party’s pledge to invest £1 billion into public health services will also help relieve the burden on general practice.

He said: ‘A big capital investment has been announced today of £2.5 billion to upgrade facilities but I know things are going to take time after ten years of squeeze of budgets and cutbacks to turn things around.

‘Public health has been decimated in recent years but if you can get public health resolved, as it were, you can prevent people getting ill in the first place. That is going to have an impact on the pressure on general practice.’

Regarding the pensions tax issue, Mr Ashworth said he will ‘urgently’ try to resolve the pensions issue that GPs are facing.

He said: ‘I hear it from GPs all the time, and consultants in the provider sector. Of course, the way in which the tapering applies where you do an extra shift and you’re hit with a tax bill, we need to review it. If I’m honest, if I came up with a solution from my back pocket now, you wouldn’t believe me. This is very complex.’

He added that Labour, if elected, would ‘look at this urgently’.

The Conservatives recently pledged 6,000 new doctors in general practice by 2024/25.