Access to GP in England April 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding access to general practice in England.

I appreciate that GPs up and down the country work incredibly hard in often extremely difficult circumstances to provide the best possible care for their patients. However, I know that GPs are under incredible pressure in terms of workloads.

One of the key problems is that there simply aren't enough GPs. At the general election I stood on a manifesto which included a commitment to recruit 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses, 3,000 more midwives, and to guarantee people a GP appointment within 48 hours, and on the same day for those who need it.

I am concerned that under the current Government the NHS and general practice is in crisis. In a recent survey by the British Medical Association, 68 per cent of GPs warned that their workloads were becoming unmanageable, and 55 per cent said that the quality of the service they provided had deteriorated in the last year. It is also concerning that recent reports show a large decrease in applications for GP training places.

I am also aware of the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report which highlights problems with recruitment and retention of GPs; and urges the Government to set out how it plans to attract more GPs to general practice; and to report back on progress towards having an additional 5,000 doctors working in general practice by 2020.

It is clear that NHS funding is not keeping pace with demand. The Government has pushed up waiting lists, plunged hospitals into financial crisis, and left patients struggling to get GP appointments. In January 2016, the GP Patient Survey reported a significant and steadily growing trend in unhappiness with GP surgery opening hours. Hospitals are dealing with record deficits, there is a crisis in A&E and record numbers of elderly patients are stuck in hospital because of a lack of care in the community. Additionally, the Government remains committed to making £22 billion worth of efficiency savings in the NHS by 2020 which I believe simply cannot be delivered without harming patient care.

I believe the Government must take urgent action to address issues affecting GP morale, workload and recruitment, otherwise patient care will only get worse. I also believe the government needs to seriously consider the proportion of overall NHS spending that goes into general practice and urgently come up with a credible long-term plan to sort the problems out, because this is having a direct impact on patients. I hope the Government will seriously consider the PAC's recommendations and I will follow its response closely.

Thank you once for contacting me and for sharing your views. I would like to take this opportunity to once again express my appreciation to GPs for the important work they do. I can assure you I will continue to follow this issue closely and bear in mind the points you raise.