We recognise the acute shortages in general practice, which is why we remain, as I said in my previous answer, committed to delivering the additional doctors in general practice by 2020. Millions of patients have already benefited from being able to access evening and weekend GP appointments. We expect everyone in England to have access to this by March 2019.
I am fortunate to work very closely with the GPs in my constituency. It would be appear that, for a variety of reasons, younger GPs are not as likely to buy into the partnership model as their predecessors. Does the Minister agree that we need a mixed model of both private partnership contractor and direct NHS state provision if we are to get GPs to the places where the public need them?
My hon. Friend works very closely with the GPs and commissioning groups in his constituency and they value him greatly as a local MP. We back the partnership model. As the Secretary of State said last month at the Royal College of General Practitioners, we believe in its many benefits as the cornerstone of primary care. That is why we are embarking on a new piece of work to explore other models with the British Medical Association and the RCGP, which have kindly agreed to work with us on this, and to look at the partnership model in the context of primary care at scale.
Dr Williams, you wanted to speak a moment ago; have you abandoned the idea?
NHS figures continue to show an alarming decline in the number of family doctors working across the north-east, which is why I am supporting the University of Sunderland bid to establish a new medical school. Does the Minister accept that prioritising training places in areas of greatest need is the best long-term solution to the crisis facing general practice?
There are record numbers in training, and I take note of the hon. Lady’s bid for the training school. One reason the Department and my brief have placed such importance on recruiting new GPs into the NHS in England and on making sure that people can stay working in the NHS in England is that we see general practice, rightly, as the cornerstone of the health service.