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GPs: Patient Access

Volume 631: debated on Tuesday 14 November 2017

This Government have changed policy so that all NHS patients will be able to book routine GP appointments in the evening and at weekends. That is very important both for NHS patients and to relieve pressure on A&E departments.

In September, Jubilee surgery, Whiteley surgery, Stubbington medical practice and Highlands practice launched a same-day access scheme in Fareham, based at Fareham Community Hospital, which had the honour of welcoming the Secretary of State on a visit last year. It is commission-led and supported by Fareham Community Hospital taskforce. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the GPs—including Dr Tom Bertram, who has taken the lead on this scheme—and Fareham and Gosport clinical commissioning group, and explain how patients will be able to access a GP in Fareham?

I was honoured to meet them, and Richard Samuel and his team have done a fantastic job in transforming services in a way that reduces pressure on local hospitals, but also improves services for local people. There was a real buzz there. I also note that neighbouring Gosport has made changes that have improved patient satisfaction to 90%, with 60% of issues being dealt with on the same day. So some really exciting things are happening.

Warrington has fewer full time-equivalent GPs than in 2010, despite the growth in its population, and many GPs are now quitting the service because of the pressures. What is the Secretary of State going to do not only to attract more people into the GP service, but to keep those who are already there?

Those are important questions. I had an excellent visit to Warrington hospital towards the end of the summer, and saw some fantastic work there, particularly on sepsis prevention. The hon. Lady is right: the issues are, first, about getting more medical school graduates to go into general practice—this year we think we will get 3,019 medical school graduates to go into general practice, which is a record as the number has never been that high; and this is also about retention and looking at some of the things that frustrate GPs. One of them is the costs of indemnity, their insurance policy, so we have announced that we will move to a national scheme to help control those costs.

One village medical practice in my constituency, in Slaidburn, was under threat a few years ago, but fortunately it was saved. It does tremendous service to the local community. If it was not there, the elderly patients would have to travel over 40 minutes to Clitheroe, and there is no capacity to take any extra people there. Will the Secretary of State ensure that practices like Slaidburn have a future?

It is essential in very rural constituencies such as my hon. Friend’s that we continue to have active GP surgeries; I notice that they sometimes give the best care in the whole NHS, because they know patients and their families and there is continuity of care. They are incredibly important for the local community, so I congratulate my hon. Friend on what he did to save that practice.

Is it right that constituents in Stroud now have to wait weeks to get an ordinary appointment with their GP? The sustainability and transformation partnerships are now saying that there is going to be an acute shortage of GPs. What is the Secretary of State going to do about it?

No one should have to wait weeks for a GP appointment in Stroud or anywhere else. We have a lack of capacity in general practice, which is why we decided to embark on a plan to get 5,000 more doctors working in general practice. That is one of the biggest ever increases in the capacity of general practice. I am afraid that it will take time to feed its way through the system, but we are confident that we will deliver it.