A new bill has proposed the creation of a government-commissioned quarterly review of primary care services and seeks to force ministers to ‘come clean’ about challenges within the sector.
The Primary Care Services (report) Bill was proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper in parliament last week.
It would require the secretary of state to appoint an independent reviewer to assess the state of primary care services and present a quarterly report that would be laid before parliament.
Ms Cooper said such reports would include an assessment of ‘any measures taken to improve general practice services, dental services, community pharmacy services, optometry services and mental health services’.
‘The bill seeks to force the government to come clean about the challenges facing primary care health services specifically, such as GPs and dentists, by appointing an independent reviewer to report on the state and condition of primary care services every three months so that we can hold the government’s feet to the fire on progress,’ said Ms Cooper during a first reading of the bill on 12 July.
Ms Cooper described primary care services as ‘in crisis’, warning: ‘People cannot get a GP appointment when they need one, some pharmacies are closing, people are resorting to DIY dentistry, and waiting lists for mental health appointments are sky high.’
And she said that the government’s recent long-term workforce plan was ‘only partially funded and will do nothing to increase staff levels now’.
Ms Cooper said the proposed reports ‘cannot come soon enough for patients’, as she shared examples of people struggling to access GP and dental services.
Ms Cooper described the current situation within primary care as ‘completely unsustainable’ and called for action to improve services ‘for patients right around the country’.
‘This bill would in effect be a forcing mechanism, which would enable MPs every three months to hold the government’s feet to the fire on their actions—or their inaction—on fixing the front door to our NHS,’ she said.
‘Given the crisis facing our primary care services, it cannot come soon enough.’
She suggested that action on retention, IT infrastructure and ‘outdated’ funding into primary care were ‘just three of the challenges in general practice on which an independent reviewer could report progress to this house every three months until they are fixed’.
The bill was presented by Liberal Democrats MPs Daisy Cooper, Wera Hobhouse, Tim Farron, Richard Foord and Munira Wilson.