The Royal College of General Practitioners has written an open letter to the next leader of the Conservative Party calling for assurances that the NHS will remain free at the point of use now and for future generations.
In the letter, which has been sent to all remaining candidates in the leadership race, it has also asked the next Prime Minister of the UK to avoid a 'no deal' Brexit in the best interests of patient care.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP Chair has written: "This is a transformational time for our country and the health service. General practice is the bedrock of our NHS. It is the first point of contact with the health service and is highly valued by patients.
"But it is also under immense strain. If we are to meet the challenges of the 21st century and put the NHS on a sustainable footing, it is essential that the next Government sets out a positive vision for the future of general practice and helps us realise the ambitions set out in NHS England's Long-Term Plan."
It is calling on whoever is the next Prime Minister to:
- Increase funding for frontline general practice to at least 11% of the NHS budget, and deliver NHS England's Long-Term Plan in full
- Recruit at least 5,000 additional GPs by 2021 in addition to more members of the wider practice team to work on the frontline of general practice and
- Ensure that general practice is an attractive career to prevent experienced GPs leaving the profession.
These are all key to delivering the College's vision for general practice, Fit for the Future, launched last month – the result of a consultation with more than 3,000 GPs, other healthcare professionals and patients.
Lastly, the College is urging all candidates to prevent a no-deal Brexit at any cost given the significant impact on patient care it could have by threatening the supply of medicines, medical devices and radioisotopes, and the recruitment and retention of vital EU national staff.
The College officially opposes the UK's exit from the European Union following a decision by its governing Council in November 2018.
Commenting on why she wrote the letter, Professor Stokes-Lampard said: "We need to know that regardless of who wins this contest, our health service will remain safe and free at the point of need for our patients – one of the foundations that this great source of national pride was built on.
RCGP says Brexit will impact on patient safety
"Brexit has dominated the political landscape for several years, to the detriment of health, education and many other essential pillars of our society. As a College we oppose Brexit on the grounds that we believe it will have a profoundly negative impact on the NHS and patient safety – but if we are to leave the EU, at the very least we need assurances that we will not do so without a no deal.
"As the UK's largest Medical Royal College, representing more than 53,000 doctors, it is not our place to say who will make the best Prime Minister, but whoever it is must make the NHS a priority; they must protect it, and the best way for them to do this will be to invest in general practice.
"Our vision is that GPs will have more time to care for their patients – the standard consultation will be at least 15 minutes – and that being a GP is the best job in the world, but this future is only achievable if we equip general practice with the resources, infrastructure and skills that it needs."