This site is intended for health professionals only

Stability for primary care should be among main priorities for new Government

by Rima Evans
8 July 2024

Share this article

The Labour Party’s landslide victory in last week’s general election and Wes Streeting’s appointment as health secretary has prompted organisations working in and with primary care to outline what their priorities are for the new Government, as well as make predictions on what changes lie ahead.

Here is a round-up of their responses:

The BMA said Mr Streeting needs to work closely with the union to get the ‘NHS back on its feet’, with priorities including stabilising primary care In England, addressing the issue of medical associate professions (including physician associates) and resolving the junior doctors’ pay dispute.

Professor Philip Banfield, BMA chair of council, has written to Mr Streeting to express ‘his hopes of restoring the family doctor and continuity of care in general practice to provide better value and better care for patients’.

‘To stabilise primary care in England, a new contract must be “mutually agreed” between the Government and GPs,’ he said.

Professor Banfield has also urged the new Labour Government to pay attention to the medical associate professions (MAPs). He wrote: ‘MAPs are being employed across the NHS without any defined national scope of practice, posing a real and present patient safety risk.

‘The profession will be looking for you to take urgent action; the dangerous substitution of doctors must be stopped.’

In addition, he asks for Mr Streeting to view the BMA as a ‘constructive partner’ that can help him deliver the Government’s plans to cut waiting lists and rebuild the NHS.

The Institute of General Practice Management addressed all the newly elected MPs to say ‘general practice is on a precipice and needs support and investment’. It’s message posted on X was: ‘The IGPM is willing to work with you to understand our struggles and possible solutions. Please engage with us – our doors are open.’

The Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants (AISMA) said addressing underinvestment in general practice is a first priority to stop GPs handing back their contracts and bolster other parts of the NHS.

Andy Pow, AISMA board member and director at Forvis Mazars, said:While the new Government has stated it is constrained by finances within the context of the NHS, it must explore how to reduce the possibility of more GP practices handing back their contracts. This means supporting funding going into the core contract in England and through the devolved budget in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which is what pays for GP premises, running costs, management, reception, nurse and GP staff at practice level.’

He added: ‘General practice needs a period of stability.’

James Gransby, AISMA vice chairman and partner at Azets, also said: ‘ We hope moves to remedy this underfunding will be recognised as a first important step for the new government, since success at GP practice level makes success more achievable for other areas of the NHS. ‘

Wesleyan, the specialist financial mutual for doctors, has indicated there could be changes to tax and savings policy.

Alec Collie, head of medical, said the changes might not come immediately’ and that it would probably be September at the earliest before the first concrete announcements are made. 

He added: ‘Labour has pledged that things like income tax, VAT and National Insurance won’t change. However, it may need to have some ability to raise taxes in order to deliver its other commitments. So, there’s a chance we could see changes to wealth-based taxes such as Capital Gains Tax or Inheritance Tax’.

Mr Collie also explained that while Labour backtracked on plans to reinstate the Lifetime Allowance before the election – which was ‘a real win’ – it still plans to review the pensions system.

‘We don’t currently have any detail on what this could involve. Our view is that it must avoid making small tweaks and instead focus on fundamental changes that deliver simplification. Continuing to tinker with pension policy risks adding more confusion to any already complex regime at a time when doctors are already grappling with various pension scheme changes. A big picture, root-and-branch review is our best chance of delivering fair outcomes, and making pension saving something that people actually want to engage with.’

And, the Medical Defence Union has urged the new Government to address healthcare professionals’ own health and wellbeing and the support they are given.

Dr Michael Devlin, Medical Defence Union (MDU) head of professional standards, said: ‘Sadly, it has become too familiar for us to see a healthcare workforce that is over stretched and under supported. We urge the new Government to roll up its sleeves and deliver for healthcare professionals. That includes prioritising support for their health and wellbeing, making sure the way they are regulated is fair, proportionate and timely and ensuring every pound possible is spent on patient care, rather than supporting an outdated legal regime for clinical negligence claims.’