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Swift GP access at the heart of Lib Dem election offer, Sir Ed Davey to say

The Lib Dem leader will pledge to recruit 8,000 more GPs in order to boost swift access to appointments.

Sir Ed Davey

A right for patients to see a GP within seven days will be at the heart of the Liberal Democrats’ election offer, Sir Ed Davey will say.

The Lib Dem leader will on Friday announce a five-year plan aimed at delivering on the pledge, as the political parties begin the second day of election campaigning.

Some 8,000 more GPs would be recruited by the end of the next parliament to fulfil the goal, the Lib Dems say, delivering an extra 65 million appointments each year.

2024 General Election key dates
(PA Graphics)

The party pointed to research it commissioned from the House of Commons Library which suggested there were more than 60 million GP appointments with waits of over two weeks last year in England, equating to almost one in five appointments.

According to data from NHS England published on Thursday, GP numbers are rising.

There are now 37,237 full-time equivalent GPs across England, an increase of 2.4% since April 2023.

But Sir Ed claimed the Conservative Party had “brought the NHS to its knees” during its time in Government, and had “decimated local health services”.

The Lib Dem leader added: “Patients are bearing the brunt of this failure with millions forced to wait in pain for weeks just to get a GP appointment.

“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.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey (centre) chats with Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham Max Wilkinson (centre right) during a visit to the town centre in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey (centre) chats with Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham Max Wilkinson (centre right) during a visit to the town centre (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Sir Ed’s party is targeting 80 marginal Conservative seats in its election campaign, often in traditionally Tory voting areas of southern England billed as the “blue wall”.

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

While there Sir Ed claimed there was a need to “transform our politics” in order to “fix our health and care system, to get our economy back on track, to end the scandal of sewage, to get the fair deal that people so, so deserve”.

His deputy leader Daisy Cooper meanwhile ruled out a post-election deal with the Conservatives, similar to the 2010 Cameron-Clegg coalition, as she claimed many lifelong Tory voters could not “stomach” the party anymore.

Health minister Dame Andrea Leadsom claimed the Lib Dems had promised “unfunded spending commitment with no plan to pay for it meaning higher taxes on hard-working families”.

She added: “This is not surprising from a party that would prop up the Labour Party, who would increase families taxes by £2,094, taking us back to square one.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives are delivering 6.5 million more GP appointments each month than in 2019, thanks to our brilliant GPs, achieving our manifesto pledge and cutting waiting lists.

“The choice at the election is clear: stick with the plan in an increasingly uncertain world by choosing bold action for a safer, more secure and more prosperous future with Rishi Sunak, or go back to square one with Sir Keir Starmer and the same old Labour.”

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