Intended for healthcare professionals


New plan for supporting general practice in England

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 22 October 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n2585
  1. Rebecca Fisher, senior policy fellow,
  2. Hugh Alderwick, head of policy
  1. Health Foundation, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: H Alderwick Hugh.Alderwick{at}

No quick fix for the fundamental mismatch between demand for care and available GPs

General practice is the foundation of the NHS, but these foundations are creaking. GP consultation numbers are now higher than before the pandemic.1 Yet the number of permanent, fully qualified GPs in England has fallen since 2016.2 The pandemic has created additional work for GPs—including delivering millions of covid-19 vaccinations—and there is a major backlog of unmet healthcare needs, compounded by record waits for routine hospital care.3 Satisfaction among patients remains high,4 but some struggle to access care.56 Staff are exhausted; many consider leaving.7

England’s latest plan to tackle these difficulties, published by national NHS bodies on 14 October, focuses mainly on access to care.8 It aims to increase capacity in primary care, tackle variation (and encourage “good practice”), and improve communication with the public about how to access services. It follows months of media stories in parts of the UK press claiming—falsely—that GPs have been closed during …

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