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GP Services

Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2018

We of course recognise the shortages in general practice, which is why we remain committed to delivering an additional 5,000 doctors working in general practice by 2020 compared with 2015.

Like many other places throughout the country, Southampton is struggling to recruit and retain GPs. There are many reasons for that, but perhaps one is the practice of discouraging medical students from going into general practice while encouraging them to become specialist consultants. Is my hon. Friend aware of that and of how widespread is it? What is he doing to encourage more people into general practice?

The Secretary of State has already outlined the plans for the new medical schools and the record 3,157 GP training places that were filled. I am aware of the practice that my hon. Friend mentions, and that is why we are working with the profession on a range of measures to boost recruitment into general practice. The existing professionals also have a role to pay, and the superb chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Helen Stokes-Lampard, is really leading from the front in that respect.

Does the Minister agree that part of the way to address some of the pressures that GPs face is to enhance the role of community pharmacies? Will he update the House on what steps he has taken to support pharmacies and further integrate them with general practice?

We know that there are benefits to be had from the better integration of community pharmacies with sustainability and transformation partnerships. Through the pharmacy integration fund, we are integrating pharmacists into primary care. I hear good reports about how that is going and we will have 2,000 of them in general practice by 2020. Community pharmacies themselves should also be integrated, through STPs, because it is one NHS.

It is great to see that record numbers of medical students are going into general practice this year, but far too many GPs are choosing to retire and leave the NHS when they are in their 50s because of tax penalties on their pension scheme. Does the Minister agree that we need to address that situation so that experienced GPs are not penalised for staying in the NHS?

Along with concerns about workload and, for example, indemnities, pensions are an issue that older GPs often bring up with me. Ultimately, it is a matter for Her Majesty’s Treasury. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) raised a similar issue at Prime Minister’s Question Time last week, and the Chancellor was on the Bench to hear it. I am sure he will read the report of these exchanges, too.

In Stoke-on-Trent we have some fabulous GPs, not least the wife of the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), but too many people present to A&E because their primary carer is not up to dealing with the workload. That means that the A&E is over-logged so fines are levied on the hospital. What is the Secretary of State going to do to make sure that when hospitals pick up the slack from GPs, they are not subsequently fined by clinical commissioning groups for missing targets?

We are going to integrate primary and secondary care properly through the new models of care—for instance, extended access is important in that. The new multidisciplinary teams—for example, I have talked about pharmacists working in primary care—are not only about providing the plaster when the cut happens, but about preventing the cut in the first place. The prevention agenda is very important.

We need more GPs, which is why today’s announcement is very important. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman welcomes them.

Patients at Hightown GP surgery were promised that their surgery would stay open, but, out of the blue, they were written to and told that the surgery would close on 8 June. The Government are belatedly taking action on the shortage of GPs, but will the Minister intervene to make sure that Hightown surgery is kept open and that a promise is kept to patients?

I will look at Hightown surgery, and if the hon. Gentleman wants to talk to me about it, he is welcome to do so. Of course it is the responsibility of his clinical commissioning group and NHS England in his area to provide primary care services for the patients who are his constituents, but if wants to talk to me further, I am very happy to do so.