Lib Dems pledge to hire 8,000 extra GPs if elected

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey makes a speech during a visit to the town centre in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, while on the General Election campaign trail
[PA Media]

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to recruit 8,000 more GPs if elected, putting the policy at "the heart" of their general election campaign offer.

Sir Ed Davey, the party's leader, said the investment would create an extra 65 million appointments a year by the end of the next parliament.

The Lib Dems have unveiled a five-year plan aimed at fulfilling their longstanding ambition to ensure patients can see a medical practitioner within seven days.

Ramping up the party's general election campaign, Sir Ed said "patients are bearing the brunt" of Conservative mismanagement of the NHS.

He claimed the party had "brought the NHS to its knees" and "decimated local health services" during its time in government.

The Lib Dem leader continued: "It is an unacceptable situation and one that is only getting worse after years of Conservative chaos and neglect.

"The Liberal Democrats would give people a legal right to see a GP in a week or 24 hours if in urgent need, so people aren't ever left struggling to get an appointment.

"This is at the heart of our offer to voters at this election and our plan to fix the health and care crisis.”

Half of the 8,000 extra GPs would come from boosting recruitment, while the rest would be secured by retaining more experienced GPs, the Lib Dems said.

The party estimates that its plans would cost £4bn over five years. It says it has several revenue-raising proposals including reversing cuts to taxes on banks.

The policy only applies to England, as health is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

During the 2019 election, the Conservatives promised to deliver 6,000 more GPs by 2024.

According to data from NHS England published on Thursday, there are now 37,237 full-time equivalent GPs across England, an increase of 2,500 since 2019.

Under Rishi Sunak, the party promised to ease pressure on GP appointments by expanding pharmacy roles, aiming to free up 15 million appointments in two years for quicker patient access.

Labour has promised to train more GPs and reduce pressure on current staff by accelerating independent prescribing for pharmacists, allowing them to manage more conditions and support practices better.

The Lib Dems are targeting 80 marginal Conservative seats in the party's southern "blue wall" during this election campaign.

On Thursday, Sir Ed began the campaign with a visit to ultra-marginal constituency Cheltenham. It is represented by Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, who held it with a majority of just 981 in 2019.

During the visit the Lib Dem leader argued for the need to "transform our politics" in order to "repair our health and care system, restore the economy, end the sewage scandal and secure a fair deal for people".

The Lib Dems have ruled out a post-election deal with the Conservatives similar to the 2010 Cameron-Clegg coalition.

Its deputy leader Daisy Cooper claimed many lifelong Tory voters could not "stomach" the party anymore.