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Access to GPs

Volume 657: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2019

Primary and community care are set to receive an additional £4.5 billion a year of taxpayers’ money as part of the NHS long-term plan, to ensure that we can get the best possible access to GPs.

In parts of my constituency, it is very difficult for people to see their GP. For example, in the area of Park Wood, there is just one GP for 4,000 patients. I welcome the extra money going into primary care that my right hon. Friend just mentioned, as well as the additional GP training places and the fact that a Kent medical school is coming our way, but we need more nurses, physios and other health professionals in primary care. What is he doing to ensure that people can see the right health professional when they need to do so?

This is an incredibly important agenda that is close to my heart. It is at the core of the prevention of ill health to ensure that we have the right primary care services. Yes, that includes more GPs, but it also includes more of the other health professionals who support them. We have 1,000 extra non-GP clinical staff already working in general practice compared with just two years ago, but there is much more to do.

But what is the Secretary of State doing about retaining GPs? This is a real problem, and we have seen more and more GPs taking early retirement in recent years. What is he doing specifically to support retention?

This is a core question that Baroness Dido Harding’s workforce review will be looking into, and work is going on right across government to try to fix it.

GPs are the first line of defence against superbugs and antimicrobial resistance, and the Secretary of State is already proving to be a world leader in this area. The idea of a resistance tax has the support of other world leaders including Lord O’Neill and Dame Sally Davies. Would he consider this approach?

I am happy to look at all approaches to how we can reduce the overuse of antibiotics to preserve them so that they work effectively where they are needed. Of course GPs have a role to play in that, and the number of antibiotics prescribed by GPs has fallen in recent years, but again there is much more work to do.

Will the Minister outline whether his Department is willing to enter into an agreement with medical students to wipe out their student loans if they contract to carry out five years of GP service?

That is an interesting proposition and I would be happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman more about the idea. I was in Northern Ireland last week looking at medical services there and at what we can learn, and that might be another idea.