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Labour are wolves in wolves’ clothing

Labour are wolves in wolves’ clothing

Editor Jaimie Kaffash on the Opposition’s plans to guarantee patients face-to-face appointments with their chosen GP

I saw a comment on social media the other day that said Labour’s pitch seems to be that they will implement all the Tory’s nastiest policies, but will do it more competently. We won’t overturn the dehumanising small Channel boats policy, but we will be more efficient in implementing it.

They seem to be applying the same logic to general practice. They will introduce the same impossible targets (and make them even more impossible), but the stick they use will be the latest in baton technology.

Their policy doesn’t warrant a deeper analysis. They want patients to have guaranteed face-to-face appointments, with the GP of their choice and within two weeks. As Pulse has shown, the link between waiting times and percentage of patients seen face to face is inversely proportional – the higher chance of a face-to-face appointment, the longer the wait. This is even more acute when adding the promise of seeing your favourite GP.

To achieve this would require a revolution on the level of 2004 – when out-of-hours services were taken out of the contract – with a similar chunk of work removed. Yet Labour’s proposals currently comprise introducing a fully salaried service and training more doctors. Without getting into the issues around a salaried service (which could fill a book), both these proposals would only bear fruit in a decade, even if they worked perfectly. And, as the BMA have pointed out, they haven’t even touched on the retention issue.

Labour are unserious about general practice. They know that their proposals wouldn’t fulfil their promises. And they know that local authorities – the elections for which they are currently campaigning – have barely any power when it comes to GP access.

But they don’t care. Because complex arguments around systemic issues and increased demand due to an ageing population are too difficult to sell to the parts of the media they are courting. And they are taking the same line with nurse and junior doctor pay.

The problem for GPs is that this Labour rhetoric fuels the systemic issues and the Opposition is showing that it has no intent to address them. With what we have seen so far, we can’t expect GPs’ fortunes to change through the ballot box.

It looks like it will be more of the same – greater expectations with little more support. But at least these unachievable expectations will be communicated efficiently.  

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at



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

Penny McEvoy 19 April, 2023 6:16 pm

So we need a back up plan or three.
Given we have to provide all the primary health care patients want for under £120 per year per patient out of which are paid all our staffing costs, consumables and upkeep costs (not premises admittedly) it would seem a private model for most patients, like for dentistry, is going to be unavoidable. Shabi’s recent blog post re the “all you can eat restaurant” which failed and the recommendation of an upfront cost for a basic entitlement (eg 3 or 4 consultations – not necessarily all with a GP – per year) and then pay as you go on top of that would be the obvious solution.
Presumably the salaried service will be there to look after the truly poor and the really sick who can’t afford their treatment.
IF the government actually keep an NHS at all…it feels to me as if they don’t intend to.

David Jenner 20 April, 2023 11:25 am

So RCN reject 5% deal and GPs get 2% and tough access targets to get any more
Everyone else talking industrial action so please BMA GPC can you do something ?
Does not look like GPs have many political friends so what have we got to lose by talking turkey and following it up with industrial action

Cameron Wilson 20 April, 2023 12:13 pm

Jaimie, any chance of getting an article on developing a Plan B from a BMA bod!
Or is that a taboo subject!!

M Rain 20 April, 2023 2:45 pm

I predict a private model would be inevitable. Charging £150 for a 60 minute first appointment and £75 for any 30 minute follow up appointment for the same problem would be the standard rate. Prescriptions and blood tests will have to be paid for as extra. There will be no phone calls. Any video call for a minor ailment would have to be booked and paid for in advance at £30 for 10 minutes.
Those unable to pay can have one 40 minute appointment or two 20 minute appointment for a single problem, as long as the government pays £120 for them per year. For any additional appointments, they would have to pay or go to the salaried walk-in centres and wait for 8 hours to be seen just like in the A&E. Happy days!

Turn out The Lights 20 April, 2023 6:35 pm

M Rain
smells of inevitability.No Plan B BMA.What happened to the Easter war council.