Responding to a pledge from the Labour Party to train more doctors and increase access to GP services, Dr Richard van Mellaerts, deputy chair of GPC England at the BMA, said:
“While it’s encouraging that the Labour Party want to address the GP workforce crisis, it’s disappointing that this has been paired with the suggestion that existing staff are somehow not doing enough - even going as far as to demonise individual practices.
“All GPs and their teams want to do is give patients the high-quality care they deserve, but the workforce crisis is making that increasingly difficult. Despite enormous pressure and having the equivalent of more than 2,000 fewer GPs than we did in 2015, practices booked more than 27 million appointments in February 2023 – almost two million more than in February 2022. The percentage of appointments booked to take place face-to-face has also increased.
“It’s worth noting that, as well as face-to-face appointments, practices will always offer a range of consultation modes, including phone and video, to suit the needs of the patient who might, despite being offered a face-to-face slot, prefer a remote appointment. And that, despite the way Labour has interpreted waiting times data, some practices will book routine appointments far in advance to save patients struggling to get a last-minute slot – efficient planning to relieve pressure where they can.
“What we really needed from this plan was an emphasis on staff retention, and keeping existing doctors in the NHS for longer – not only to treat patients, but to also guide and mentor the next generation of healthcare professionals. Expanding medical school places is a good idea, but it takes 10 years to train a GP.
“Focusing on what can be done now to help support staff is what’s most needed – not pointing the finger at them, and risking driving more away.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.