Streeting warns “the longer we give the Conservatives, the longer patients wait”

Katie Neame

Wes Streeting has declared that “the longer we give the Conservatives, the longer patients wait” after research revealed that the number of GPs in the NHS has fallen by almost 4,500 in the last decade.

Labour has tabled a motion today urging Health Secretary Sajid Javid to set out a plan to “fix the crisis in primary care” and meet the 2019 Conservative election manifesto promise to recruit thousands of new GPs.

Analysis of NHS data found that there were 32,201 GPs in 2013, but that the total now stands at 27,743 – a reduction of 4,458 that the opposition blamed on a “decade of Tory mismanagement of the NHS”.

The Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary said: “People are finding it impossible to get a GP appointment when they need one, leaving them in pain and discomfort and meaning serious conditions will be missed.

“As the Culture Secretary recently admitted, a decade of Conservative mismanagement left our NHS “wanting and inadequate” before Covid hit. Now the Conservatives are breaking their promise to hire the GPs we need.

“The Conservatives are overseeing an exodus of dentists from the NHS, leaving people who can’t afford to go private unable to get any care at all. The longer we give the Conservatives, the longer patients wait. Labour will put patients first and make sure they can be seen on time.”

The Conservatives pledged to hire 6,000 more GPs by 2024 as part of their 2019 election manifesto, but Javid admitted in November that the government is not on track to meet this commitment.

The number of GPs in England has fallen every year since an earlier Tory pledge to increase the workforce made in September 2015. Then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government would increase the number of GPs by 5,000 within five years, but by September 2020, the total had fallen by 1,425.

Labour will demand today that Javid also take action to address the “crisis in NHS dentistry”. The opposition highlighted that 2,000 dentists quit the health service last year – approximately 10% of all dentists employed in England.

Labour stressed that an estimated four million people are unable to access NHS dental care and that some areas, including Somerset, have been described as ‘dentistry deserts’ because NHS dentists are not accepting new patients.

General Dental Practice Committee member Len D’Cruz said that the government “seem not to care” about NHS dentists, adding: “I think NHS dentistry is dying. It’s dying a very slow death. I fear for NHS dentistry in this country if the government doesn’t wake up and start sorting out the NHS contract and reforming it.”

D’Cruz noted that emergency teeth extractions are now the most common reason for children to go to hospital. An average of 78 children in England under the age of 11 go to hospital for teeth extraction each day.

Below is the text of Labour’s opposition day debate motion on access to GP services and NHS dentistry.

Keir Starmer
Angela Rayner
Wes Streeting
Feryal Clark
Thangam Debbonaire
Sir Alan Campbell

That this House notes that primary care is in crisis, with people across the country struggling to access GP services and dental treatment; believes that everyone should be able to get an appointment to see a doctor when they need to and has the right to receive dental treatment when they need it; is concerned by the government’s failure to remain on track to deliver 6,000 additional GPs by 2024-25; and therefore calls on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to urgently bring forward a plan to fix the crisis in primary care, meet the government’s GP target and ensure everyone who needs an NHS dentist can access one.

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