Skip to main content

General Practitioners

Volume 626: debated on Tuesday 4 July 2017

In answering my first Health question, may I thank the cardiac intensive care unit team at Barts hospital in London, where my father-in-law, the just retired Supreme Court Justice Lord Toulson, sadly passed away last week? They did absolutely everything they could and showed the very best of the NHS.

We have committed to there being an extra 5,000 doctors in general practice by 2020 as part of a wider increase in the total workforce in general practice. NHS England and Health Education England are working together with the profession to increase the GP workforce. We believe that that is an essential part of creating a strong and sustainable general practice, and indeed NHS, for the future.

In recent years, the number of family doctors in Sunderland has plummeted. All the evidence shows that doctors are more likely to stay in the areas where they have trained. Does the Minister accept that new medical school places should be created in areas such as Sunderland, where there is the greatest need to recruit and retain general practitioners?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Since 2016, Sunderland’s GP Career Start scheme has recruited 10 newly qualified GPs. A further five newly qualified GPs will be recruited each year over the next three years. I understand her point about medical school provision. Undergraduate medical education is delivered in the north-east in partnership between Newcastle and Durham universities. There are currently 25 medical schools in England offering just over 6,000 Government-funded medical school places. We are funding 1,500 additional places each year. Five hundred have already been allocated, with 24 of them in Newcastle.

Recruiting more GPs in Cheltenham is vital to share the growing workload they face, but rising indemnity costs, particularly for out-of-hours care, can act as a disincentive. Does my hon. Friend agree that this must be addressed decisively?

Indeed we do. We recognise the role that GPs play in the delivery of NHS care. Following the GP indemnity review, additional money was included in the contract last year to address indemnity inflation. We said in our manifesto that we will ensure appropriate funding for GPs to meet rising costs in the short term and work with the industry to produce a longer term solution.

17. As the number of GPs goes down, there is increasing pressure on the time they have with their patients. One area being missed is that of suicide and self-harm. We now know there is an increased risk of suicidal behaviour for those on unstable and irregular zero-hour contracts, and that those on employment and support allowance are more than two thirds more likely to take their own life. What are we doing to advise GPs on that?


The hon. Lady, who chairs the all-party group on suicide and self-harm prevention, does a huge amount of work in this area. The GP patient survey last year showed that 85% of respondents rated their GP experience as good. We are investing about £30 million of taxpayers’ money in the releasing time for care programme, which we hope will increase the time GPs can spend with patients on issues such as those she raises, but in my new role I am very happy to meet her.

GPs are the first line of defence against antibiotic resistance, which has the potential to be an uncontrollable global new black death. Will the Minister confirm that the UK will retain its position as a world leader on this issue, and will he tell us when the global antimicrobial resistance innovation fund will open for applications and when the pilot reimbursement model for drug development will begin operating?

The Government have committed £50 million of official development assistance towards setting up the global antimicrobial resistance innovation fund. We are one of the world leaders on this subject. I am meeting my hon. Friend and my hon. Friends the Members for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) shortly, when we can take this forward.

I spoke to one GP last week who told me that because he has been unable to recruit help he has only been able to take one week’s leave in three years. That is clearly not sustainable. The morale of GPs is at an all-time low, the number of GPs continues to fall, surgeries are closing, and patients are finding it harder and harder to get an appointment. The Secretary of State promised an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020, but given that it takes 10 years to train a GP will the Minister tell the House how exactly he is going to deliver on that promise?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and I look forward to engaging with her on such matters. The “General Practice Forward View” is a landmark document, which was published in April last year. As she knows, it sets out extra investment that GPs have been calling for for years: £2.5 billion a year for GP services. That means investment is rising. The good news, as the Secretary of State said, is that more people are coming into general practice. We want to continue to encourage that, but we also have to take action to prevent early retirements and to bring people back to general practice. We are indeed doing that.