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GP leader calls for staff boost over better access

RCGP says staff numbers are the secret to better care

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 08 April 2015

A leading GP has called for politicians to stop arguing about how they will improve access to general practice and focus instead on boosting workforce numbers and investing in this part of the NHS.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGPs, has called for a more productive focus on staffing levels and investment as the way to improve care in general practices.

Responding to the debate yesterday today about access to GP services, Dr Baker said: “Targets and promises about providing more weekend and evening access to GPs sound well and good, but without more GPs, more practice staff and significant investment in general practice, they are meaningless.”

The Labour and Conservative parties argued yesterday, with Labour claiming that Conservative policies to extend opening hours had failed, while the latter argued that Labour’s figures were wrong and that out-of-hours cover was being extended.

Dr Baker said GPs and practice teams across the UK were working harder than ever, both in and out of hours, to meet the demand of the country’s growing and ageing population, but resources were stretched.

“Today alone we will see over 1m patients - the equivalent of 90% of all NHS patient contacts for a record-low 8.4% share of the budget,” said Dr Baker.

Over the year, 370m patient consultations would be made in general practice – 70m more than five years ago, but the college’s own research has shown that on 69m occasions, patients were not able to make an appointment with their GP or practice nurse within a week.

“It goes without saying that access to GP services is extremely important, but prioritising evening and weekend access over everything else can mean that in-hours services suffer and patients often end up worse off,” she said.

“Rather than putting more pressure on our already struggling workforce, politicians of all parties should focus on ensuring that general practice receives a much greater share of the NHS budget and that ambitions to boost GP numbers are realised.”

The college wanted general practice to receive 11% of the NHS budget by 2017 and to have 10,000 more GPs across the UK by 2020.

“Only then will general practice be able to provide more care and services for our patients whenever they need them, close to home, where care is most cost effective and where our patients want it most,” she concluded.

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