Parliamentary update – April 2023

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This month has seen questions on GP workforce, abuse of staff and workload, and new Committee reports into ICBs published.

Where quote marks appear the words have been directly transcribed from what was said in the Commons chamber or in a written response, where they are not used the content of what was said has been summarised for brevity.

Health and Social Care Questions

25 April | Health and Social Care Questions | Click to read in full.

The Health Secretary and ministers answered questions on health inequalities, life expectancy, efforts to stop smoking and NHS backlogs.

Particularly relevant questions to London general practice are reproduced below:

Q Wes Streeting (Lab: Ilford North) – Shadow Health Secretary: “The Conservatives have cut 2,000 GPs since 2015 and now too many patients cannot get an appointment when they need one. So why will the Government not adopt Labour’s plan to double the number of medical school places, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status, so that patients have the doctors they need to get treated on time?”

A Will Quince, Minister for Health: “I recognise the pressures on the system, but Labour has spent the non-dom money 10 times over. We are taking real action on this issue: real-terms spending on general practice is up by more than a fifth since 2016; as I said, we are investing £1.5 billion to create an additional 50 million GP appointments; we have recruited more than 25,000 additional primary care staff; and there are 2,167 more doctors in general practice; and we have the highest number ever in training.”


Q David Evernett (Con: Bexleyheath and Crayford): What progress has been made on increasing the number of GP appointments?

A Secretary of State for Health: I think the question is about GPs and workforce capability, and that is why we are investing in more doctors. We have recruited over 5,000 more doctors, including an additional 2,000 doctors in primary care.


Q David Evernett (Con: Bexleyheath and Crayford): An increasing number of my constituents are having difficulties obtaining appointments in GP surgeries. However, I was pleased to learn that the GP workforce in my constituency of Bexleyheath and Crayford has increased by an estimated 75% since September 2019. What further steps are being taken to continue growing the workforce in general practice, which is so crucial to increasing the number of appointments available?

A Secretary of State for Health: He is absolutely right about that 75.7% increase in his constituency. Nationally, we have recruited an additional 25,262 full-time equivalent primary care professionals, so that is expanding the workforce capability in primary care. This is part of our £1.5 billion investment in the workforce in primary care.


Q Dr Lisa Cameron (SNP: East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow): As chair of the all-party parliamentary health group, I have heard from UK patients who struggle to access GP appointments from chain GP practices. Many of those practices have very low ratios of GPs to patients, including, in one case, only two GPs registered for 30,000 patients. Will the Department meet the APPG to address these grave concerns?

A Neil O’Brien, Minister for Primary Care: We have increased real-terms spending on general practice by over a fifth since 2016, and as a result there are now 10% more appointments happening every month. We are grateful to GPs for that. We have more doctors and clinicians, but we want to keep going, and I am happy to discuss this with anyone who has useful ideas to keep us powering forward.


Q Jamie Stone (Lib Dem: Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): What progress has been made on improving access to NHS appointments?

A Minister for Health: We are investing at least £1.5 billion to create an additional 50 million GP appointments by 2024. To improve access to hospital appointments we are giving patients choice about their care and offering alternative providers, with shorter waiting times, to long-waiters. We are also investing £2.3 billion in community diagnostic services, which will improve access to tests, checks and scans. One hundred community diagnostic centres are already open, and they have delivered more than 3.6 million additional tests.

Prime Minister’s Questions

29 March | Click to read in full.

Q Sarah Olney (Lib Dem: Richmond Park)

“In a shocking article in Surrey Live last year, it was reported that staff at a GP practice in Walton were left in tears and “crumbling under pressure” owing to the increased workload caused by staff shortages. Is that any wonder, when there are 850 fewer GPs in the country than there were in 2019? What does the Deputy Prime Minister say to patients left in pain and staff left in tears—including some in his own constituency—as a result of the Government’s failed promise to recruit more GPs?”

A Dominic Raab (Con: Esher and Walton) – Deputy Prime Minister

“Any abuse against any GP in any practice anywhere in the country is absolutely wrong, and we must demonstrate zero tolerance of it. I can tell the hon. Lady that there has been a large increase in the number of GP appointments, with 29 million since the start of the year. We are improving access to general practice, with more support staff, and also improving the technology, with more state-of-the-art telephone systems. A record number of GPs are being trained, and we are investing £1.5 billion to create 50 million more appointments a year by 2024.”

Urgent Question: Junior Doctors’ Strike

30 March | Click to read in full.

Wes Streeting (Lab: Ilford North) – Shadow Health Secretary posed a question to the Health Secretary on the impact of the junior doctor strikes. The discussion between Mr Streeting and Mr Barclay centred around the absence of plans for the Government to meet with the BMA for further negotiations. With Mr Barclay saying that the agreement of a 35% pay increase was an unacceptable precondition of talks demanded the BMA and Mr Streeting saying the BMA had no preconditions and the figure was just a starting point.

House of Commons: Health and Social Care Committee

On 31 March, the committee published a report on Integrated Care Systems. The report can be read here.

On 18 April, the committee held an oral evidence session on prevention in health and social care. The session, which featured UKHSA CEO Professor Dame Jenny Harries, can be watched here.

On 19 April, the committee announced ten themes to be examined in its major new inquiry into preventing ill-health.

On 24 April, the committee published the Government response to its report on independent medicines and medical devices safety.

House of Commons: Liaison Committee

On 28 March, the Prime Minister took questions from senior backbenchers, including from the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee on NHS strikes and backlogs. That section can be watched here.

House of Commons: Westminster Hall

On 28 March, Caroline Dineage (Con: Gosport) led a debate on Medical Technology Regulations and the NHS. Click to read in full.