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GP Services: Capacity and Availability

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 8 May 2018

We want all NHS patients to be able to access appointments in the evenings and at weekends. Thanks to our programme, 40% of the population currently do so, and that will rise to 100% next October.

Forgive me for rushing in; I was tied up with Committee matters.

My right hon. Friend has set out a great vision for the national health service over recent years, and I very much welcome it, but does he agree that, in local areas, some of the GP provision could do with a little more work? I am particularly thinking of West Malling in my own constituency where a large element of the community is finding it harder to get access, and there is a danger that the GP surgery may leave the high street.

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that issue. He does have, I think, 28 more GPs in the west Kent clinical commissioning group area than in 2010, but there is a particular issue over premises. The need to invest in premises is deterring younger GPs from becoming partners, and sometimes making GP surgeries unviable. We are looking at that problem now.

So many GP practices—no matter what salaries or what terms and conditions they offer—are reporting a reluctance by newly qualified GPs to go into GP practice. What will the Minister do about the hours of work—the time given to consult with constituents—to make it easier for people to see GP practice as a viable opportunity to serve their community?

I do very much agree with the hon. Lady, which is why we are working hard to recruit 5,000 extra GPs into general practice in England. I gently point out to her that the Royal College of General Practitioners says that, while we spend 9.2% of the NHS budget in England on general practice, it is only 7.3% in Wales.

Has my right hon. Friend had time to consider the recent Professional Standards Authority report, “Untapped Resources”, of which the principal recommendation is that practitioners on PSA-accredited registers should have powers to make direct NHS referrals, which would reduce the burden on GP surgeries?

I always look forward to the multiple interesting ways in which my hon. Friend returns to the same subject. We are always open to ideas that reduce pressures on GP surgeries, and I will look carefully at his latest idea.

The Secretary of State knows—because I keep telling him—that Warrington has fewer GPs than its population warrants. What concrete steps will he take to attract GPs to areas that are under-doctored?

Most parts of the country would say that they need more GPs, which is why we are trying to improve the capacity across the country. So, what have we done? Well, very recently we announced six new medical schools, which will have a specific focus on attracting new students into general practice. That is one of a number of measures.