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RCGP tells Keir Starmer practices need commitment to retaining GPs

by Jess Hacker
5 January 2022

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Practices need ‘robust plans’ to keep GPs in work for longer to support ‘exhausted’ burnt out staff, the RCGP has said in response to a speech given by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

The leader of the opposition yesterday (4 January) delivered a speech to voters setting out Labour’s vision for the UK.

During his pitch, Sir Keir had wished ‘good luck to anyone trying to get a quick GP appointment’, as an example of how the current Government has ‘revealed itself to be unworthy’ of the public’s trust.

He added that the party would publish a long-term plan for the NHS based around shifting emphasis from emergency care to preventative health.

He later suggested that a Labour leadership would offer patients ‘access to high quality healthcare’, and with ‘zero tolerance of abuse towards NHS staff’.

Responding to the speech, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said that GPs’ ability to properly deliver care to patients has been obstructed by ‘more than a decade of underinvestment’ and ‘historic’ poor workforce planning.

These issues have been ‘exacerbated’ by the ‘intense’ workload and staffing pressures brought about by Covid-19, however.

He said: ‘Current pressures in the NHS are not confined to hospitals. General practice has been working to its limits and still faces tough months ahead, which won’t be helped by high numbers of staff falling sick or having to isolate due to testing positive for Covid.’

Professor Marshall added that workload is ‘escalating’ as GP numbers fall, noting that specific and ‘robust’ plans are needed to retain experienced GPs.

This should start by addressing the ‘undoable’ workload in general practice to help keep those GPs from burning out and leaving work earlier than planned.

The latest NHS data indicates that 5.8 million patients were waiting to start treatment at the end of September 2021, with 300,566 of them waiting more than 52 weeks.

Meanwhile, a major study published this summer indicated the number of practices with high GP turnover almost doubled from 14% in 2009, to 27% in 2019.

In November, MPs voted against amending the Health and Care Bill to grant greater transparency around workforce numbers in the NHS.

This came after the health secretary admitted the Government is not on track to meet its election pledge to recruit 6,000 additional FTE GPs by 2025.

However, the DHSC recently confirmed that Health Education England is set to merge with NHS England under a series of wider reforms expected to improve recruitment and retention of GPs and other NHS staff.