I appreciate that GPs work hard and carry out a vital job in society, and I know that Ministers are determined to make sure that we have the correct number of GPs. The Government has mandated Health Education England (HEE) to provide national leadership on education, training and workforce development in the National Health Service in England. That mandate requires HEE to ensure a minimum of 3,250 trainees per year are recruited to GP training programmes in England by 2016 and I understand that a national campaign is to take place this summer to further encourage recruitment into GP training. There are now 36,920 full time equivalent GPs working and training in the NHS, an increase of over 1,600 since September 2010.
In addition, in January, a £10 million investment package was announced to kick start a new plan to expand the general practice workforce. The plan covers a wide range of measures to recruit more aspiring medical students to take up a career in general practice, retain those doctors already working there, and provide support for those GPs who have taken a career break to get back into work.
At the same time, the Government is committed to increasing access to GPs in order to further improve patient care. You may be interested to know that in March this year, the Department of Health announced an additional £550 million of funding targeted at improving access to GPs, modernising GP surgeries and improving out-of-hospital care. This includes more availability of evening and weekend appointments, as well as an increase in the number of local services and treatments and the redevelopment of existing practises.
I recognise there are issues around GP numbers and here in the Constituency we have our own pressure points.
I have added my support to the Suffolk Federation’s drive to recruit and retain more GPs in the light of local shortages. I have spoken to the Minister about my concerns that we are able to deliver in areas we have committed to.