Responding to an interview with Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Wes Streeting, published in The Times today, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “A good health service relies on a robust, functioning general practice service. GPs and our teams make the vast majority of NHS patient contacts and in doing so, we alleviate pressure across the health service, including in A&E. This is largely through the important ‘gatekeeper’ role we hold, ensuring as many people as possible receive the care they need close to home – but we’re working under intense workload and workforce pressures, and the service is struggling.
“What the Shadow Health Secretary describes – health centres with different healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive the most appropriate care – is already happening. GPs have led multi-disciplinary teams of nursing staff, pharmacists, physios and others for years, because we recognise that not all patients need the medical expertise of a GP and working in this way helps free up our time for those who do. However, his description of the ‘murky’ way in which GP practices operate is something we certainly do not recognise – GPs will always put our patients first.
“The partnership model of general practice delivers exceptional benefits for the NHS. It allows GP teams to innovate and tailor care and services to their local patient populations, it is extremely good value for money for the NHS because it relies on the goodwill of GP partners going above and beyond, and a recent independent review of the partnership model found it to be a viable one when resourced appropriately. GPs are very good at adapting to and managing change, and we are not averse to other models of general practice working alongside the partnership model if they work well for patients – but when properly staffed and resourced, the partnership model does work really well for patients, the NHS and the tax payer, so there would need to be a very good reason to abandon it.
“No model of general practice will be sustainable without sufficient numbers of GPs and other practice staff, and that is what is lacking. This is why we need to see a proper workforce plan to ensure the NHS remains sustainable and safe for patients for years to come – and a robust recruitment and retention plan for general practice must be at the heart of this.”
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Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.