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Exclusive: Government 50m appointment pledge must distinguish between GP and primary care roles

Exclusive: Government 50m appointment pledge must distinguish between GP and primary care roles
By Jess Hacker
9 September 2021

Government plans to introduce more than 50 million additional general practice appointments must distinguish between GPs and primary care roles to prevent overwhelming practitioners, a leading GP has told Healthcare Leader.

As part of its NHS recovery plan – announced earlier this week and voted to pass last night (8 September) – the Government pledged to deliver more than the extra 50 million  general practice appointments already promised in England.

In 2019, former health secretary Matt Hancock promised to recruit 6,000 new doctors to general practice and create 50 million more GP appointments a year by 2024/25.  

This week, the prime minister pledged to go even ‘further’ than that.  

He said: ‘He said: ‘We all know someone whose test, scan or hip replacement was delayed or who helped to protect the NHS amid the immense pressures of Covid by putting off treatment for a new medical condition. 

‘And now, as people come forward again, we need to pay for those missed operations and treatments; we need to pay good wages for the 50,000 extra nurses we are recruiting, we need to go beyond the record funding we’ve already provided to the NHS, and that means going further than the 48 hospitals and 50 million more GP appointments.’

However, commenting on the commitment, Dr Farzana Hussain, GP partner at the Project Surgery in East London, warned that this burden should not be strapped solely to GPs.

‘I’m hoping that when they talk about the number of general practice appointments that we are referring to general practice, rather than the GP. I think this is a really important distinction,’ she said.

She added that even before the introduction of PCNs, general practice teams have always involved healthcare assistants, practice nurses and pharmacists, with 12 different types of ARRS which – although employed to a PCN – are affiliated with practices.

‘I’m really keen that we understand that and it’s not 50 million GP appointments: A) because we know we’re short of GPs, but B) more importantly, because it’s all about getting the right care,’ she said.

The current media narrative heavily focuses on the role of the GP and patients’ reports they are unable to receive face-to-face appointments, she said.

Earlier this week, a doctors’ union reported the Telegraph to the media regulator IPSO over ‘misleading’ GP coverage.

‘It’s great that [the Government] have tried to promise more access, I think that is needed. But as long as we understand that it doesn’t necessarily, or won’t always appropriately, be with your GP: that it is much more than our GPs that make up our practice teams.’

However, speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons yesterday (8 September), Boris Johnson said he wants ‘GPs to be seeing the right people at the right time’ and to ‘fix the waiting list’ with the new measures.

DHSC has been contacted for comment.

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