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GP Retention

Volume 748: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2024

General practitioners are a rock. They are the underpinning force of primary care. I want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to them for all they do for the health of the nation. My right hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of GP retention. During covid and since, GPs have been exhausted and the return to primary care provision has been difficult. The Government are doing a lot, such as improving digital telephony and reducing the administrative workload. I am about to launch a future of general practice taskforce to look at what more we can do to provide more support to this critical part of our primary care.

Chelmsford is a growing city, and it is very good that, compared with pre-covid times, we have more clinicians in our GP surgeries, but we need more surgeries as well. One new surgery is being built. I have been told that the limits that local district valuers impose on NHS lease costs make it increasingly difficult for developers to deliver new surgery buildings, not only in Chelmsford, but in other parts of the country. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and other affected MPs to see whether we can resolve that issue and help growing areas, where there are more houses, to deliver the new surgeries that we need?

Of course I would be delighted to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss that issue, which several colleagues across the House have raised with me. She will appreciate that the District Valuer Services is crucial in ensuring value for taxpayer’s money from the rents that are charged for GP practices. Nevertheless, the Department is working hard to support better primary care facilities. I understand the point and would be happy to meet her.

There are 56 fewer fully qualified GPs in Somerset now than there were in December 2016, so it is no surprise that my constituents in Wincanton feel that they can never access one. How will the Minister support general practice to enable it to continue to provide the vital services that our communities deserve?

It is fantastic that hard-working GPs have delivered 60 million more appointments a year than in 2019. That is a credit to their efforts. The Government have undertaken a wide range of approaches to try to reduce the administrative burden. We are focused on trying to deal with some of the issues that GPs have raised with me about the primary and secondary care interface so that they do not have to write all the fit notes and liaise with consultants. We have also spent more than £200 million on digital telephony. Importantly, the additional roles reimbursement scheme has added more than 36,000 more professional staff, from physios to pharmacists to those in GP practices, to try to support patient access.

At the last general election, the Government promised to deliver 6,000 more GPs by 2024-25, but there are still 2,000 fewer GPs than in 2015. Part of the problem is that morale has plummeted in the past decade, meaning that experienced family doctors and newly qualified GPs are hanging up their stethoscopes. What does the Minister say after scrapping two GP retention schemes last month? Will she come clean today about another broken manifesto promise?

The hon. Lady is choosing numbers out of the air. She will be aware that there are almost 3,000 more GPs now than in 2019, and very importantly the long-term workforce plan is scheduled to introduce 6,000 new training places by 2031-32. In 2022, we had the greatest number ever of new trainee GPs. That is great news for GP practice, as they are crucial to primary care.