On Tuesday a number of MPs raised the issue regarding GP provision in the House of Commons front of Matthew Hancock who has now been our Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for 18 months. It would appear that despite what is now nearly 10 years of Tory promises and failure to deliver that the only element he chose to acknowledge as a failure was the claim that “for the first time in a generation, the proportion of the total NHS budget going into primary and community care is rising, whereas there were cuts under Labour” Now of course the definition of a generation is far from certain and the fact that Labour made cuts in health budgets is of course true, but by comparison the cuts in the Conservative budgets is much bigger than any Labour cuts. The challenge is when will the manifesto claims made by the current Government take place? Their promises are very limited but Hancock has now made some more claims. However the background is as Clive Efford MP stated “In 2015 the Secretary of State’s predecessor promised 5,000 more GPs by 2020. The Secretary of State repeated that promise when he took over the job, but my constituents are finding it increasingly difficult to get a GP appointment within three weeks.”
The full fact charity looked into this issue, almost a year after Hancock had taken office, back in May 2019. Their response then was based on comments made by May and Corbyn and these are some of the responses to the claim at that time that: “There are more GPs in the NHS today than in 2015” Their assessment was: Correct looking at the headcount of GPs (excluding locums) in England between September 2015 and 2018. Looking at the full-time equivalent number of this group, which gives a better idea of staffing levels, the numbers are falling. They went on to point out that “Mrs May was referring to the total number of GPs in England excluding locums. This figure went up by around 200 between September 2015 and 2018”. So the gap between the promise of 5000 at that time was around 4800. Although there is no indication of the current numbers the responses from Mr Hancock on Tuesday included:
“The commitment that we have made is that we will have 6,000 more GPs and 26,000 other clinical staff in general practice. That is the commitment that we have made, and that is the commitment on which we will deliver…. We will create an extra 50 million appointments a year in primary care so that everyone can go to the GP when they need to”. This second statistical promise is the part that was included in the manifesto. Clearly since last May there may well have been an increase in GPs and if so the gap between the 2015 promise for this year may have reduced but given their delivery after 80% of the time was at 4%, their ability to see a significant increase over the remaining 20% of the time would be very questionable, and one would assume that if they were much further forward, that Hancock would have stated that very clearly, which he did not!