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Labour would force GPs to offer everyone face-to-face appointments

(PA)
(PA)

GPs would be forced to provide face-to-face appointments to every patient that requests them under Labour plans to make seeing doctors easier.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said “patients must come first” as he announced the proposals at the Labour conference in Liverpool.

The plans included making booking appointments simpler to end the 8am rush to win a slot, and requiring every practice to allow bookings through the NHS app.

Conservative leadership bid
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (James Manning/PA)

Ahead of his speech on Wednesday, Mr Streeting said: “Patients are finding it impossible to get a GP appointment when they need one, in the manner they want one.

“The Conservatives have closed hundreds of practices since the 2019 election and are breaking their manifesto promise to hire more GPs.

“Labour will train the doctors our NHS needs to treat patients on time by doubling the number of medical school places. We will require GPs to give patients the choice of where and when they want their appointments. Patients must come first.”

Dr Farah Jameel, the British Medical Association’s England GP committee chair, said doctors are “desperate” to provide patients with the care “they need and frankly deserve”, but said it is becoming increasingly difficult during a deepening workforce crisis.

“We simply don’t have enough doctors, and while it’s good to see Labour recognising the workforce challenges, it’s disappointing to see politicians once again making divisive headline-grabbing promises that are not grounded in reality, and which suggest the existing workforce are somehow not trying hard enough,” she said.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs want to do the very best for their patients and we share their frustrations when they find it difficult to get appointments when they need them.

“GP access is important but it is only a starting point to ensuring our patients receive the safe, personalised and appropriate care they need. What we really need to address are the huge workload and workforce pressures that are the real reason why patients are facing such long waits to see a GP.

“The college has always said that post-pandemic patients should be able to access GP care and services in a variety of ways depending on their health needs and preferences. This is already happening.”