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GP Recruitment

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 21 March 2017

As part of our plan to improve access to general practice, we are taking steps to ensure that there will be an extra 5,000 doctors by 2020. We are increasing the number of GP training places, recruiting up to 500 doctors from overseas and encouraging doctors who have retired to return to general practice.

I am aware of a number of issues with the recruitment of GPs in my constituency, such as at St Luke’s surgery in Duston. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss the issues with that surgery in particular?

I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend. He will know that the surgery got an £80,000 grant this year through NHS England’s general practice resilience scheme, but I am aware that there are lots of pressures on surgeries such as St Luke’s and I am happy to talk about it further.

I am delighted to hear the Secretary of State issue some information about the additional GPs who will be coming on stream in the coming years. How many will be coming to north-east Lincolnshire and when will they be there? We have a critical shortage of GPs and people are struggling to get appointments.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that areas such as Lincolnshire find it particularly difficult to attract GP recruits, which is why we have set up a fund that gives new GP trainees a financial incentive to move to some of the more remote parts of the country. This is beginning to have some effect, and I am happy to write to her with more details.

I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s efforts to recruit more GPs, and I know that he wants all GPs and, indeed, doctors to have high levels of job satisfaction. Is he aware of the fact that reasonable numbers of doctors are leaving the UK to work overseas? Given the cost of medical training and the money that taxpayers put into that education, will he look at that issue, perhaps by requiring a certain commitment to the NHS?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. There is currently no evidence of an increase in the number of doctors going to work abroad, but there is an issue of fairness because it costs around £230,000 to train a doctor over five years. In return for that, there should be some commitment to spend some time working in the NHS, and we are consulting on that at the moment.

GPs around the country are facing unprecedented pressures as they work to deliver the highest possible standards of care, despite underinvestment and increasing patient demand. A record number of GP practices closed in 2016. Are the Government really serious about addressing the problem for the sake of GPs and their patients? If so, why has the promised £16 million resilience fund not been delivered in full, when it was promised by October 2016? There is very little evidence to date of the Government delivering on any of their promises in “General Practice Forward View”, no sign of the extra £2.4 billion, no sign of—

Order. We have got the general drift. May I gently say to the hon. Lady that the longer the Opposition Front Benchers take, the less time there is for Back Benchers on both sides? This is becoming a worsening phenomenon. It is not only the fault of the hon. Lady, but it really must stop. It is not fair to Back-Bench Members.

During my time as Health Secretary, the real-terms investment in general practice has gone up by £700 million or 8%, and we are planning to increase it by 14%—£2.4 billion—over this Parliament. A lot of extra money is going in, but I recognise that there are still a lot of pressures.

The Secretary of State’s plans to recruit doctors will be widely welcomed in Leicestershire, but should he not be making greater use of already properly regulated practitioners—those who are regulated by the Professional Standards Authority—of whom there are 20,000, including hypnotherapists?

My hon. Friend’s ingenuity in bringing these issues up in question after question never ceases to amaze me. As he knows, we recognise that the pressure in primary care cannot just be borne by general practice, but we must always follow the science as to where we get our help from.

Only recently, a surgery has been closed down in the borough of Halton. There is a clear shortage of GPs. Despite the efforts of the clinical commissioning group to try to find replacements, that has not happened. How will merging CCGs help, and can the Secretary of State rule out any merger between Warrington and Halton?

This is something on which we take guidance from what local CCGs say. There are times when the CCGs feel that their scale is not big enough to have the impact they want.

The hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that we set up the CCGs. I remind him that CCGs came together without central prescription as to what their size should be, but we will always listen to the advice we get on the ground if people want to change their size.