Today Jeremy Hunt signalled a ‘new deal’ and 5,000 extra GPs to be made available over the course of this Government to enable the Conservative vision of 8am-8pm 7-day a week routine GP access. He suggested half of medical school applicants would have to become GPs to achieve this with no detailed plans on how to make this happen. (1)
David Cameron later confirmed these plans to create a ‘seven-day’ health service. He cited ‘different shift patterns’ and an increased reliance on technology based consulting like Skype and email consultations. (2)
In response we feel the following points need to be made and clarified.
- 7-day access to GPs currently exists and is functioning in the form of current out of hours (OOH) service.
- Moving to an 8am-8pm 7-day a week ROUTINE GP service from current 8am-6.30pm provision would amount to 60% increase in current work provision.
- Currently primary care receives less than 8% of the NHS budget (total of ~£100 billion) of ~£8 billion (2)
- There are just over 32,000 GPs in England providing over 340 million consultations a year at current 8am-6.30pm service provision. (5)
The Government has ALREADY pledged to commit at least £8 billion funds (by 2020) in addition to £22 billion efficiency savings to make the CURRENT £30 billion shortfall in NHS (not primary care) funding. This has been commented by NHS England chief Simon Stevens as money needed just to keep the NHS running rather than funds to expand services. These plans would make the NHS budget ~£86 billion – a reduction in actual funding.
The planned increase of 5,000 GPs (if an increase from current GP numbers) would lead to only a ~13.5% increase in GP workforce (over the next five years) which are being asked to provide a 60% increase in work provision with an overall reduction in funding.
Simply the numbers do not add up. Neither the ‘new deal’ or where 5,000 GPs will be sourced from has been detailed and without this information both politicians are simply creating sound bites which are being pushed to create headlines with no substance.
Dr H Gandhi