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General Practice and Primary Care

Volume 612: debated on Tuesday 5 July 2016

We will be investing an extra £2.4 billion a year in general practice by 2020-21, a 14% increase in real terms. The General Practice Forward View, published earlier this year, sets out a package of support for general practice to boost the workforce, drive efficiencies in workload and modernise primary care infrastructure and technology.

General practitioners in Henley have recently written a letter to all their patients pointing out the difficulties they face in fulfilling their workload. Will the Secretary of State explain what the Government are doing about that and how what they are doing will help?

I am happy to do so. I recognise the picture that my hon. Friend paints—not just in Henley but across the country—of a huge increase in GPs’ workload, which they are finding extremely challenging. What have we done? We have almost 1,300 more GPs working and training in the NHS compared with 2010. We have said that by the end of this Parliament we will seek to make available an additional 10,000 primary and community care staff, including 5,000 doctors working in general practice and 1,000 physician associates. We recognise the problem and are doing something about it.

Given proposals for significant increases in housing across Dorset, my constituents are rightly concerned about access to services, including to GPs. Will the Secretary of State reassure me and my constituents that housing numbers will be taken into account when assessing provision and increasing capacity of general practice in Poole and Dorset?

I am happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance. NHS England looks at areas of new housing very carefully when deciding where to invest additional resources for new GP practices. I recognise those concerns. I was in Dorset at the weekend. It is a lovely place that many people retire to, and of course older people tend to use the NHS more, so it is very important that that is reflected in our investment patterns.

Having met GPs, health centre managers and patient groups in Frome, Wincanton and Somerton in my constituency, I know that GP recruitment is a serious problem in Somerset. What measures is the Department putting in place to address both that issue and the additional challenge of excessive agency costs, both of which are placing a considerable strain on rural health providers?

I am happy to do that—I visited a GP practice with my hon. Friend in the run-up to the last election, and I know the close interest that he takes in this issue. As I said, we are making huge efforts to recruit more GPs during this Parliament, and to do that we must increase the number of medical school graduates to 3,250 a year. We are making progress in that direction, and we have also introduced tough new rules on the use of agencies, including maximum hourly rates for agency doctors and nurses.

Will the Secretary of State do something about the Hardwick commissioning group in north Derbyshire? I met it a week last Friday to talk about dementia care, which he knows is due to change a little, according to the local authorities and so on. Will he tell the group that the mad idea to close Bolsover hospital, and the hospital in Bakewell in Derbyshire Dales, should be stopped? Will he tell Hardwick commissioning group that it has gone beyond its terms of reference, and that those hospitals should remain open?

I recognise the important role that community hospitals play in many of our constituencies, and that role will change as we get better at looking after people at home, which is what people want. We can all be proud of significant progress on dementia in recent years. Dementia diagnosis rates have risen by about 50%—indeed, we think we have the highest diagnosis rates in the world. However, it is not just about diagnosis; it is about what happens when someone receives that diagnosis, and the priority of this Parliament will be to ensure that we wrap around people the care that they need when they receive that diagnosis.

The Health Secretary has just promised 5,000 new GPs, and GP Forward View mentions recruiting 500 GPs from overseas. I understand that Lincolnshire GP leaders are looking to recruit GPs from Spain, Poland and Romania. As we have heard, EU nationals who live in the UK and work in the NHS are seen by the Home Secretary as bargaining chips, which has made them incredibly nervous about their status. How successful does the Health Secretary think that that GP recruitment will be?

This is a time when all sides of the House should be seeking to reassure many people from other countries who do a fantastic job in our NHS that we believe they will have a great future here. The Home Secretary has prioritised doctors, paramedics and nurses in the shortage occupation lists, and in all countries that have points-based systems—look at what happens in Australia or Canada—the needs of the health service and health care system are usually given very high priority.

Mr Speaker, let us note another milestone this year: your election yesterday as a freeman of the City of London. We look forward to you bringing your own flock of sheep to Westminster in future.

The Secretary of State will know that we are facing a diabetes crisis, and by 2025, 5 million people will have been diagnosed with diabetes. There are 32,000 pharmacies in the United Kingdom, with 13,000 community-based schemes. Given that 99% of the population live near a pharmacy, does the Secretary of State agree that more diabetes work should be given to pharmacies, to try to ease the burden and pressure on general practitioners?

There is a lot of potential in what the right hon. Gentleman says. The financial pressures on the NHS and general practice mean that this is the right moment to rethink the role of pharmacies, and consider whether we can be better at tapping into the incredible skills that pharmacists have as trained clinicians, which I do not think we make the most of. He is right to say that diabetes and childhood obesity is a big priority for the Government, and I hope we will be able to inform the House more about that soon.