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Put patients before Brexit, College tells politicians

RCGP urges all parties to put general practice and patient care at the centre of manifestos

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

All political parties should put patient care ahead of Brexit in their manifestos, the Royal College of GPs urged them this morning. The College said it is concerned that the dominance of Brexit in politicians’ agenda, especially now that the general election has been called for 8th June, could mean they overlook critical decisions affecting general practice and the future of patient care.

The RCGP claimed that patient safety could be at risk unless the status of EU workers is guaranteed, and existing pledges to improve general practice are prioritised. It has made a series of “essential demands” that it said the new government – regardless of the election result – must deliver to safeguard the future of the family doctor service for patients.

In its own manifesto, Six steps for safer general practice, the RCGP said: “Unfortunately, investment in our precious family doctor service has not kept pace [with soaring demand] and the number of GPs has remained largely stagnant. That’s why we are calling on all political parties to put general practice and patient care at the centre of their manifestos.” The College has called on the new government to:

  • deliver in full the GP Forward View in England, including investing at least an additional £2.4bn per year in general practice by 2020
  • increase the general practice workforce in England by at least 5,000 more full-time equivalent GPs by 2020, with more medical students choosing general practice and improved support to retain GPs who want to stay working in general practice
  • safeguard the GP workforce during Brexit negotiations by guaranteeing the status of healthcare professionals already working here, and making it as easy as possible for doctors from the EU to move to the UK, for instance by placing GPs on the Shortage Occupation List
  • grow the wider general practice team, by introducing a national return to practice scheme to recruit more nurses and increasing the number of pharmacists and mental health therapists providing patient care in surgeries
  • develop a sustainable long-term solution to bring down the rising costs of medical indemnity insurance which, unlike hospital doctors, GPs must meet themselves
  • increase the length of GP training to at least four years to ensure GPs are equipped with the skills they need to deal with patients’ increasingly complex health needs.

College chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “This General Election cannot be a one-ticket campaign about Brexit. The future of general practice and the care that we deliver to millions of patients every week is too important to ignore or be left hanging in the balance while our politicians concentrate on Brexit.

“General practice is on a knife edge: GP workloads are spiralling and patients are facing longer waiting times for an appointment because we simply don’t have the resources or enough doctors to provide safe care in the face of soaring patient demand ...
“The GP Forward View, launched a year ago by NHS England, could be the lifeline that general practice so desperately needs – and the General Election provides us with a window of opportunity to see its pledges delivered in full. Regardless of the result on 8 June, it is crucial that any future government delivers the investment and support our GPs so desperately need to provide the high-quality care that all our patients need and deserve.”

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