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Hunt says his mission is ‘step-change’ in GP services

General practice needs fair share of NHS budget and 8000 more GPs to meet demands

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Jeremy Hunt has revealed that he has made it his mission to bring about a ‘step-change’ in services offered by general practice and community and social care, transforming care outside hospitals. But GP leaders have warned that unless general practice sees a reverse in years of underinvestment, and manages to recruit thousands more GPs, it will be unable to provide the care and services that patients need and deserve.

Hunt said he was humbled by his reappointment as health secretary, “not least because of the enormous responsibility for hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses and other NHS staff who are working incredibly hard right now and under enormous pressure”, to whom he offered a “heart felt thank you for all their efforts”. He delivered this along with “a simple message: like you, I want the NHS to be the safest, most caring and highest quality healthcare system in the world. After Mid Staffs we have started a journey to get there – but if we are honest there is still further to go.”

He went on to warn that his plans to achieve these aims include further change for the NHS, particularly for primary care, as well as for social care. He said: “My biggest priority now is to transform care outside hospitals – just as we have dramatically improved the quality of care inside hospitals in the last few years. All of us want every single older and vulnerable person to be treated with the highest standards of care – so we need a step change in services offered through GP surgeries, community care and social care. That is my mission, and I know it is the mission of the whole NHS too. I look forward to working with our brilliant frontline professionals to truly make our NHS the safest and most caring healthcare system in the world.”

But Professor Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, warned that general practice is already struggling to meet even existing demands on services, because it is so under-resourced. She said: “GPs and our teams currently make 90% of all NHS patient contacts, yet we receive just 8.4% of the budget in England – a record low. General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS. It keeps the rest of the health service sustainable by keeping patients out of hospital, where care is most expensive, close to home where patients want and need care most. But years of underinvestment in general practice and a workforce that has not increased in line with the demands of our growing and ageing population, mean that our service is struggling.”

She said the College looked forward to continuing to work with Jeremy Hunt on urgent implementation of robust plans to deliver thousands more GPs, and ensure that general practice is appropriately resourced. She said: “We need to reverse these trends – the new government needs to recognise our calls for 8000 more GPs in England and for general practice to receive at least 11% of the overall NHS budget over the course of the next parliament. Only then will we be able to provide the care and services that our patients need and deserve.”

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