The Labour party has promised to invest an extra £2.5 billion to overhaul the primary care estate, as part of a £26bn ‘rescue plan’ for the NHS.
If elected in next month’s general election, the party has pledged to also create 27 million more GP appointments by increasing the number of GP training places to 5,000.
It follows the Conservative party’s pledge to create 50 million more GP appointments a year by recruiting 6,000 new doctors to general practice by 2024/25.
GP leaders have said they are pleased to see general practice as a ‘big ticket’ issue in this election but warned that parties need to maintain long-term support and avoid short-term fixes.
In response, Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the think tank Nuffield Trust, said: ‘This new money would mean the NHS could breathe a sigh of relief. The extra money for investment in building and equipment is desperately needed and it is particularly encouraging to see some of this go towards general practice.’
The BMA said whilst pledges for GP training and funding are welcome, it is ‘disappointing’ that there is no mention of pensions reform.
The Labour party’s plan also includes:
- Free prescriptions;
- An average annual increase of 4.3% to the Department of Health and Social Care’s budget over the next four years;
- £1 billion to public health services, including £100m for addiction services, £100m for obesity services, £100m for public mental health services, £75m for sexual health services, £75m for 0-5 services and greater investment in smoking cessation services;
- An increase to NHS England’s resource budget to £154.9bn in 2023-24 to improve waiting times, improve A&E performance and increase cancer survival rates;
- Investment in mental health support for NHS staff;
- Further investment in AI and digital within healthcare.
Labour shadow health minister, Jonathan Ashworth, said: ‘A decade of Tory underfunding and cuts has driven our NHS into year-round crisis. Over 15,000 beds have been cut, hospitals are crumbling and our NHS is chronically short of nurses and family doctors.’
He added: ‘We are announcing today the levels of investment our NHS needs to not only again provide the quality care our sick and elderly deserve but secures the NHS for the future as well. We’ll invest more to prevent people becoming ill in the first place and we’ll give mental health and wellbeing a greater priority than ever before.
‘This general election is about millions on waiting lists and hundreds of thousands who’ve waited on trolleys under the Tories – only Labour has a plan to rescue our NHS.’
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it is ‘promising’ that Labour has recognised the need for sustained NHS investment.
He added: ‘Pressures on services have been heightened by the workforce crisis within the NHS and while commitments to boost the GP training scheme and funding for additional nursing places are most welcome, it is disappointing that there is no mention of pensions reform. We need a future Government that will once and for all scrap the punitive pension taxation which is driving senior doctors out of the NHS.
‘We know NHS buildings are in a woeful state of disrepair and we are glad to see a commitment to addressing the maintenance backlog in hospitals and investing more money in GP premises.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘We are pleased to see that general practice and the enormous contribution of GPs to the NHS has become such a ‘big ticket’ issue in this general election, as demonstrated by the important announcements from the two main political parties in a matter of days.
‘This recognition is long overdue: there are over 300 million consultations – and rising – in England alone every year, and without the hard work and dedication of GPs and our teams, the rest of the NHS would collapse.’
She added: ‘The general practice estate – the GP surgeries where we provide care to our patients – has historically been neglected and underfunded in many areas so we are pleased to see this acknowledged in today’s announcement, especially as 50% of practices say their premises are not currently fit for purpose.
‘But it is critical that any pledges put forward by the political parties are about long term support for general practice, rather than short-term fixes that will merely serve as a sticking plaster.’
It comes as Labour recently pledged £845m for child mental health services as part of its Healthy Young Minds plan.
Meanwhile, the Conservative party has pledged 6,000 more doctors in general practice by 2024/25 and an investment of £2.5 billion over four years.