Labour to train new generation of GPs amid plans for net zero NHS

Elliot Chappell

Jonathan Ashworth is set to announce the party’s plan to train a new generation of GPs and create millions of extra appointments each year, while also creating the greenest health service in the world.

Addressing conference tomorrow, the Shadow Health Secretary will outline plans to increase the numbers of GP trainees in England by almost 50%, relieving the strain on surgeries and easing the burden on GPs.

The announcement comes after reports of GPs leaving the profession due to the stress they experience in the role.

Ashworth is expected to say that “if you want to resolve the crisis in our NHS you need a plan to fix primary care”. Labour estimates that delivering this number of GPs would mean the next Labour government could provide around an extra 27 million appointments each year once the new GPs complete their training.

“We all know how difficult it is to get a GP appointment, trying to get through on the phone and then forced to wait weeks to see a family doctor,” Ashworth will tell conference.

On the crisis that the NHS is facing in recruitment and retention of staff, he will add: “We’ve lost just over 1,600 full time GPs under the Tories and GPs tell me they are overworked, exhausted and pushed to the brink.”

The chair of the Royal College of GPs has publicly urged the government to increase the number of trainees in England from 3,500 to 5,000 as soon as possible to relieve the strain on surgeries and GP burnout that is pushing so many to quit.

The NHS is seeing the first sustained fall in the number of GPs in the UK in 50 years, with one in three estimated to quit the profession in the next five years.

Ashworth will contend that the “Tory proposal to order GPs to offer an appointment or face penalties simply won’t work after years of  underfunding”.

Striking an optimistic tone for the future, he is expected to vow that Labour “will put in the levels of investment Boris Johnson refuses to do”.

“Labour will expand GP training places by 5,000 a year, and by building up the GP workforce it will mean 27 million extra GP appointments there for you and your family, when you need it.”

The Shadow Health Secretary is also expected to announce his vision to make the NHS the greenest health service in the world, outlining plans for an NHS Green New Deal.

Ashworth will declare a climate emergency in the NHS at conference tomorrow, and unveil new commitments to meet a net zero carbon emissions target for the health service.

He is expected to say that “climate change is one of the greatest threats we face. More frequent and extreme weather events, heatwaves and deteriorating air quality increasingly impact on our health outcomes.

“Air pollution kills up to 40,000 people in England every year costing society more than £20bn. We have one of the highest rates of asthma deaths for young people in Europe.”

Labour will set out its plan to build a greener health service that will benefit the climate and create an environment that will also offer greater therapeutic value to patients and help to aid recovery.

“Our NHS emits 27 million tonnes of C02 per year, around 6.3% of the carbon footprint in England,” Ashworth will say. “As Health Secretary I’ll declare a climate emergency across our NHS. It’s my commitment that a Labour government will deliver the greenest health service in the world. Our ambition is a net zero NHS.

“We know our hospitals are in desperate need of upgrade. As we rebuild and repair our hospitals we’ll invest in solar panels and energy efficiency. We’ll move to a fleet of low emission vehicles.

“When the NHS procures it will do so ethically and sustainably. And we’ll guarantee a right to green space for patients and staff with an ‘NHS Forest’ planting one million trees across our NHS – a carbon storing tree for every member of staff.”

The NHS Sustainability and Clean Air programme will kickstart Labour’s commitment to building the greenest health service in the world including the creation of an “NHS forest” by planting 1m trees across NHS estates; installing more than 150,000 solar panels which will also save on NHS energy costs; replacing polluting NHS vehicles with low emission ones; investing in efficient energy systems for their buildings and establishing Clean Air Zones around their buildings.

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