Parliamentary update – June 2023

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This month has seen questions asked on general practice access, primary care workforce and a Select Committee session on vaccination rates.

In the past month, Londonwide LMCs has facilitated meetings between LMC members, local practice staff, MPs, and their advisors to discuss the challengesfacing general practice. More information about what we’re telling MPs can be found here. 

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 Questions 

6 June | Click to read in full. 

Health Ministers took questions on the new hospitals programme (Whipps Cross, Hillingdon, Imperial College) and waiting times for trauma and orthopaedic treatment from London MPs. Questions of particular interest are reprinted below: 

Q Ellie Reeves (Lab: Lewisham West and Penge) 

“One of my constituents with complex health needs has struggled to get GP appointments for years now. On one occasion when they could not get an appointment, they had to resort to taking out-of-date medicine. Last week, they phoned every morning at 8 am, before finally getting just a telephone appointment. When will the Government finally fix the crisis in primary care and make sure that everyone gets access to a GP appointment?” 

A Steve Barclay (Con: North East Cambridgeshire) – Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 

“Through the primary care recovery plan we have specific measures to tackle things such as the pressure at 8 am, particularly on a Monday morning. There is the investment in digital telephony, with call-back features, and online booking, as well as the channel shift to enable pharmacists to do more and to prescribe more, the use of the NHS app and the review of 111. There is a range of initiatives that we are taking to address the increased demand. Ultimately, GPs are seeing more patients—up to 10% more patients—but there is more demand, and that is how we are meeting it.” 

Q Karin Smyth (Lab: Bristol South) – Shadow Health Minister 

“People are fed up with not being able to speak with a GP when they need to. GPs are warning that rising demand and increased costs may lead to workforce cuts or even closures. They are fed up with the bamboozling of numbers—more of which we have heard this morning—whether on GPs, full-time trainees, locums and now appointments. Whatever the metric, can the Secretary of State or the Minister tell us how many more GPs or GP appointments they think are necessary for people to access the care that they need?” 

A Neil O’Brien (Con: Harbrough) – Minister for Primary Care 

“We committed in our manifesto to increasing the number and availability of appointments by 50 million. We are well on our way to meeting that target, as I have mentioned—we had 10% more appointments in the year to April than in the year before the pandemic. That is the result of the additional staffing that we are putting in: the extra 29,000 other clinicians and the nearly 2,000 more doctors in general practice. We have made that investment, but the reason why GPs are doing more appointments is not just that we have provided a fifth more funding since 2017 up to 2021; it is also that GP teams are working incredibly hard, and I pay tribute to them for all they are doing.” 

Q Andrew Gwynne (Lab: Denton and Reddish) – Shadow Health Minister 

“Last year, 66,000 cancer patients waited more than two months for their first treatment following an urgent GP referral, and the UK now has the worst cancer survival rate in the G7. Labour will give the NHS the staff, the technology and the reform it needs, and we make no apologies for expecting cancer waiting times and diagnosis targets to be met once again. That is our mission. Why is theirs so unambitious?” 

A Health Secretary 

“The hon. Gentleman specifically mentions GP referrals, and there were more than 11,000 urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer per working day in March 2023, compared with just under 9,500 in March 2019, so we are seeing more patients. 

“Let me give an indication of how we are innovating on cancer. We have doubled the number of community lung trucks, which means the detection of lung cancer at stages 1 and 2 is up by a third in areas with the highest smoking rates. In the most deprived areas, we are detecting cancer much sooner, and survival rates are, in turn, showing a marked improvement.” 

Q Gordon Henderson (Con: Sittingbourne and Sheppey) 

“Without more GPs, no initiative to increase appointments will succeed. Our local integrated care board is doing its best to bring more doctors to our area. What help can my hon. Friend give to the ICBs so that they can provide my constituents with the GPs they need?” 

A Minister for Primary Care 

“My hon. Friend is quite right that we absolutely need to go further. That is why, through the primary care recovery plan, we are taking some of the pressure off general practice, investing £645 million in the new Pharmacy First service, which will free up about 10 million GP appointments a year. That is why we are investing about £60,000 per practice in new IT and modern online systems. None the less, he is totally right: we need those doctors in general practice. We have about 2,000 more now than we did in 2019, but we will go further. We have already increased GP training and we are looking at building on that further.” 

Q Matt Warman (Con: Boston and Skegness) 

“The primary care recovery plan includes excellent measures to extend visas for international medical graduates, but can my hon. Friend say whether that extension will be automatic, answering the concerns of the Royal College of General Practitioners, and whether it will be in place for the 1,000 or so graduates coming this June and August?” 

A Minister for Primary Care 

“We will ensure that that extension is automatic, so that people have extra time to make sure they get the right placement in general practice.” 

Q Daisy Cooper (Lib Dem: St Albans) – Health spokesperson 

“I recently learned that my local integrated care board is not allowed to spend the money it wants to spend on securing the best location for a new GP practice and health centre. The reason is that Treasury rules, which are used by the District Valuer Services, are not keeping up with market rents. Will the Secretary of State speak to his colleagues in the Treasury to fix that, before we face an epidemic of health centres and GPs leaving town and city centres, and moving to ring-road locations away from the populations they serve?” 

A Health Secretary 

“I am very happy to look at that specific issue and raise it with Treasury colleagues.” 

House of Commons: Health and Social Care Committee 

On 23 May, the committee held an oral evidence session with Health Minister Maria Caulfield and Dr Nikki Kanani from NHS England following concerns over declining vaccination rates. The session can be read here. 

On 14 June, the Government issued its response to the Committe report and the Hewitt Review on integrated care systems. 

On 20 June, the committee heard from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. The session can be watched here. 

House of Lords:  Integration of Primary and Community Care Committee 

On 19 June, the committee heard from Dr Amanda Doyle, National Director of Primary and Community Care Services at NHS England. The session can be watched here.

House of Commons: Westminster Hall 

On 13 June, Andy Slaughter (Lab: Hammersmith) led a debate on New Hospital Programme and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Click to read in full. 

On 20 June, Bob Blackman (Con: Harrow East) led a debate on the Smokefree 2030 target. Click to read in full. 

On 20 June, John McDonnell (Lab: Hayes and Harlington) led a debate on the podiatry workforce and patient care. Click to read in full. 

On 8 June, Wayne David (Lab: Caerphilly) led a debate on preventing obesity and fatty liver disease. Click to read in full.