I want to make some progress.
The letter identifies six areas of major concern, and I shall focus on three of them today. The first is GP services. The letter states:
“A shortage of GPs means that patients are struggling to get an appointment to see their doctor.”
Paul Turner-Mitchell got in touch with me today to say that getting a GP appointment is now like trying to get sought-after concert tickets with the phone stuck on redial. I am sure that a lot of people watching this debate today will know exactly what he means. It is becoming the norm for people to ring the surgery early in the morning only to be told that there is nothing available for days. This year, 13 million people have either waited a week or more for a GP appointment or could not get one at all. That figure has gone up by 2.5 million since 2011.
Why is this happening? It is happening because the GP budget has been repeatedly cut under this Government, because Labour’s 48-hour appointment guarantee has been axed and because the Government—in the words of their own GP taskforce—have presided over a “GP workforce crisis”. The number of GPs per 100,000 population increased from 54 in 1995 to 62 in 2009. However, the figure has now gone back down to 59.5.
At Prime Minister’s questions today, the Prime Minister tried to claim that there were 1,000 more GPs in the NHS than under the last Government. This is simply not true. I wonder what we can do about it, Madam Deputy Speaker. We have a Prime Minister who regularly abuses statistics at that Dispatch Box, and even when he has been found out, as he has on many occasions—