GPs offered ‘new deal’ to tackle staff shortages and support seven day NHS

In a speech on 19 June, Hunt announced extra investment to help to support struggling primary care services. As a part of this new plan, GPs will be offered extra money to work in deprived areas that have a shortage of GPs. Figures released on 19 June show that NHS Bexley, in south east London, has just one doctor per 2,500 patients, with a number of other surgeries, including Swale in Kent and Houndslow in west London, having only one GP per 2000 patients.

There are also plans to recruit 5,000 new GPs and another 5,000 support staff. The NHS wants to make the GP profession more appealing, as last year one in ten GP training places remained vacant. The 5,000 new support staff will include practice nurses and ‘physician associates’, who have less medical training than doctors but can help to diagnose and better manage patients.

The scheme will also remove bureaucratic hurdles for doctors who want to return to the profession after a leave of absence or retirement, with better support to work part time.

Speaking to the BBC, Hunt highlighted that an ageing population means that the NHS needs to have better primary car provision. He said: “Within five years, we will need to look after a million more over-70s.

“Put simply, if we do not find better, smarter ways to help our growing elderly population remain healthy and independent, our hospitals will be overwhelmed.”

The Royal College of GPs has welcomed Hunt’s plans, but also raised questions regarded the funding and timescale for the proposals. Dr Maureen Baker, the RCGP’s chair, said: “The secretary of state makes many commitments, which if they come to fruition will put general practice on a more stable and secure footing for the future, and ensure that family doctors can keep pace with rocketing patient demand and increasingly complex caseloads.”

She added: “What we need now is a clear and costed plan for turning this into a reality, and a timescale for how quickly this can be delivered.”

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