GP Appointments

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 2017.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 12:00 am, 7th February 2017

What assessment he has made of trends in the availability of GP appointments.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

Best trend data come from the GP patient survey, which collates feedback from more than 2 million patients biannually. The most recent results show that 92% of patients found their appointment to be convenient—a slight increase on previous results—and that 86% of respondents rated their overall experience of their GP’s surgery as good.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

The Minister knows that there was a 30% rise in waiting times in 2016—that is one of the key concerns that constituents raise with me. Local GPs tell me that one of the main pressures they face is the failing social care system. The Minister knows that the answers he gave a moment ago do not address the problem, so will he commit to doing something meaningful?

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The answer I gave a moment ago was the results of the GP patient survey. The Government and I accept that the country needs more GPs. GPs are the fulcrum of the NHS, and we have plans for a further 5,000 doctors working in primary care by 2020. We intend to add pharmacists, clinical pharmacists and mental health therapists as part of the solution.

Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley

It is not just the need for GPs that is relevant. Surely there is a requirement for GPs to work at weekends, and that should be included in the assessment of demand for their services. GPs should also work with better technologies and work together as groups.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The Government are committed to GPs offering appointments seven days a week, 8 am until 8 pm, by 2020. By 2018, we will have rolled that out in London. Part of this is about GPs working smarter in integrated hubs of between 30,000 and 40,000 patients, thus enabling them to spread out and to offer services such as pharmacy, physio and social care.

Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Labour, Enfield North

In a survey of Enfield North residents that I conducted, 58% agreed that it is difficult to get a GP appointment. The Royal College of General Practitioners has calculated that Enfield needs 84 more GPs by 2020, but between 2010 and 2014, we lost 12 practices and had only one opened. If the 5,000 GPs appear by 2020, what will the Minister do to ensure that Enfield gets those it needs?

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

As I said earlier, we will have 5,000 further doctors working in general practice by 2020. A chunk of those will be available for every part of the country, and Enfield is included in that. I do accept that the GP system is under stress and that we need more GPs, and the points that the right hon. Lady makes are right.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, South West Wiltshire

Employing more GPs is, of course, important, but the Minister is right to say that so is collaboration. How far have we got with spending the £1 billion earmarked by the Chancellor in 2014 for improving GP surgeries? Does the Minister share Ara Darzi’s vision of more polyclinics, which will enable GPs to work more closely together?

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The vision set out in the GP five year forward view is of substantially more spend in the community and of an increase, as a proportion, in the amount of money in the NHS going to people in primary care. Part of that will be in polyclinics and the estate generally. As I say, one of the most innovative things we have found in the GP vanguards is that when they start to put together groups of 30,000, 40,000 and 50,000 patients in a GP hub, the quality of care increases dramatically. We are going to accelerate that.