15 April 2016

RCGP Response to Reform Report on General Practice

Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said, “This support for seven-day general practice services flies in the face of our own research – and the fact that a number of surgeries that have piloted seven-day working have had to scale-down services due to a lack of patient demand at weekends.

“Access to general practice services is undoubtedly important, but patients recognise that prioritising weekend and evening access must not come at the expense of access and services during normal hours. They have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than have their ears syringed.

“Our polling has found that only 31% of patients felt it should be the priority, whereas two thirds of patients felt the Government should focus resources on improving existing services rather than delivering seven day access to general practice. 

“The Government’s pledge of 5,000 GPs would be a step in the right direction towards resourcing general practice sufficiently and reducing the intense pressure that GPs and our teams are currently facing. But this is necessary to sustain our existing routine service, and existing out of hours service, certainly not seven-day working as a matter of course.

“What’s more, our research has found that almost all (95%) GPs think that extending services would have a negative effect on recruitment, and four in five said it would make them more likely to leave general practice. 

“We note that Reform’s report today follows last week’s study in The Lancet in backing what the College has been saying for years about the unsustainable increase in GP workload. 

“GPs and our teams are making more consultations than ever before – The Lancet research last week found workload has increased by 16% over the past seven years - and our patients are living longer and with multiple, long-term conditions, meaning that our workload is more complex. Yet our workforce is not rising in step with demand, and over the last decade, investment in general practice has fallen significantly.

“Many of the recommendations in today’s report cannot be done in most practices with the time and resources available. Relying more on practice nurses, for example, is impossible when many surgeries are struggling to recruit – and existing practice nurses aren’t simply sitting around waiting for patients to walk through the door, they are under just as much pressure as GPs.

“GP practices are already offering different types of appointments, such as phone consultations. But despite our efforts, demand is rising so acutely that this is having little effect in terms our workload.

“The College does recognise that there is huge potential in using technology to support patients and the health professionals who provide their care – but moving ideas from the drawing board to reality will be unachievable without investment in general practice.

“As such, we have called on ministers to ensure that a significant proportion of the £4bn IT infrastructure fund is ploughed into general practice to support new modes of interaction between patients and surgeries and ensure a smooth and safe experience for patients.

“Finally, we are concerned about the call in this report for greater choice and competition in the NHS – something that has certainly not served our patients well over the last ten years and through the recent health and social care reforms.

“General practice deals with 90% of NHS patient contacts and in doing so we keep the health service sustainable and we keep our patients safe. In order to keep doing this, the College is calling for general practice to receive 11% of the NHS budget and to recruit thousands more GPs across the UK over the course of this parliament.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.