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Tories pledge £1billion to increase GP appointments

The party has promised to build 100 new GP surgeries to make it ‘quicker, easier and more convenient for patients to receive the care they need,’ if they win the election

Conservatives have pledged £1billion in a bid to increase the number of GP appointments, if they are re-elected to government.

The party said it would build 100 new GP surgeries, modernise 150 more and boost the number of appointments in the community. The cost of implementing this will be funded by cutting the number of NHS managers to pre-pandemic levels and halving management consultancy spend across government.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: ‘As part of our clear plan we are investing in community services making it quicker, easier and more convenient for patients to receive the care they need and help to relieve pressure on hospital services.’

The Tories also plan to expand the Pharmacy First scheme, which allows people in England to go to their local pharmacy for seven common conditions, rather than their GP. Under the party’s new plans, pharmacies would be able to offer contraceptive patches and injections, as well as treatment for more conditions, including acne and chest infections.

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While the party has promised major and bold changes to NHS services, professional health bodies have said the plans are not robust enough to ensure effective implementation.

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of the King’s Fund welcomed the pledge as a critical move to achieve a sustainable healthcare system but said that it comes with a ‘considerable sting in the tail’. h

‘Funding these pledges by making cuts to NHS managers risks sabotaging the goals of the policy. The NHS already has a lower ratio of managers compared to other industries and a smaller administrative spend compared to other health systems globally. Achieving an efficient and productive health service requires experts who can streamline processes, align incentives, and create the environments for clinicians to focus on what they do best – delivering patient care,’ she said.

Patricia Marquis, executive director of the Royal College of Nursing said the announcement came at a time when there was an urgent need to invest more in primary health services but pointed out that ‘there are many question marks over this announcement and how it will be implemented’.

‘Any GP expansion worthy of the name means addressing the fact that almost half of nursing staff working in GP practices received no pay rise last year – despite a government promise. We need an increased and sustainable funding model for GP practices so we can pay nursing staff fairly and, crucially, recruit and retain the nursing staff we need.

‘No new initiative will achieve anything until there is investment in the nursing workforce – including fair pay – to stem the tide of those leaving the profession. Only then can we ensure patients across primary, community and hospital settings get the care they deserve,’ said Ms Marquis.