28 March 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Number of GP practices falls by over 500 since 2019
  • Lib Dems call for ban on strip searches in schools
  • Coffey attacks farming journalists

Number of GP practices falls by over 500 since 2019

  • Lib Dem Leader launches Local Election campaign calling for a return to “proper local health services” amid GP shortages and appointment delays
  • Rural areas “bearing the brunt of GP practice closures”, forcing people to drive long distances to see a doctor
  • Government on course to break Conservative manifesto pledge on doctor recruitment as GP numbers plummet by over 850 since the last election

New analysis of NHS data by the Liberal Democrats has found there are 547 fewer open and active GP practices in England compared to 2019 – despite rising patient numbers.

At the last election, the Conservative party promised to recruit 6,000 more GPs. However, today’s analysis reveals there are now 850 fewer GPs compared to 2019.

Rural communities are suffering most from GP practices closing. A recent study found 206 villages where patients must travel at least 5 miles to see a doctor – a 12% rise on 2017.

This new analysis of NHS figures follows a research poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats which reveals over a quarter (29%) of UK adults have tried and failed to get a face-to-face GP appointment in their local area over the past twelve months.

Embarrassingly for the Government, GP practices are even closing in the Heath Secretary’s own constituency, with a Cambridgeshire practice serving thousands of local people due to close its doors this month.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 29th March), Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey will launch his party’s local election campaign in Hertfordshire, where he will call on the Government to invest in local health services. The South of England is the worst part of the country for GP appointment problems, where over 1 in 3 people tried and failed to secure a GP appointment last year.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to recruit 8,000 more GPs and have set out plans to give patients a legal right to see a GP within 7 days. It would be achieved through increasing training places for GPs, a programme to retain experienced doctors and staff, and launching a recruitment drive to encourage those who’ve left the NHS to return.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

We need a return to proper local health services. The British public pay their fair share of taxes into our NHS, but years of Government mismanagement and neglect has caused a GP shortage crisis, with millions unable to see their local GP when they need to. It is a national scandal that face-to-face GP consultations are now so hard to come by for millions of people.

GP practices across the country are shutting their doors due to Government not bothering to recruit enough medics, with Ministers taking local communities and their GPs for granted.

It is often rural communities who bear the brunt of GP practice closures. Local health services are the bedrock of villages and towns, which makes these figures deeply concerning.

Patients are suffering from years of neglect under this Conservative Government, who have repeatedly broken their promise to recruit more GPs. These out-of-touch Ministers even fail to see that backing our local NHS helps many people get back to work and boosts the economy.

Liberal Democrats would guarantee people a right to a GP appointment within one week so people can get the care they deserve. Boosting GP numbers to do this would reduce pressure on our hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS.

Lib Dems call for ban on strip searches in schools

The Liberal Democrats are calling for urgent changes to ban strip searches from being conducted on children in schools, and criticised the Conservative Government’s failure to act since the strip searching of 15-year-old Child Q last year.

Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson secured an Urgent Question in the House of Commons this morning on the Children’s Commissioner report revealing that 2,847 children were strip searched between 2018 and mid-2022. Some were as young as eight, 52% of them were without an Appropriate Adult confirmed to be present, and 14 of them were in schools.

In her question to the Safeguarding Minister, Munira Wilson urged the Government to implement the Children’s Commissioner’s recommendations to amend the PACE Codes of Practice to require that an appropriate adult is always present except in the most exceptional circumstances, and to explicitly rule out strip searches in schools.

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

Parents will rightly be sickened that children as young as eight are being strip searched, some at school, some in public view, and most without an appropriate adult present.

The Conservative Government has utterly failed to take this seriously, even after the shocking strip search of a 15-year-old girl last year at school while on her period. The way they have dragged their feet is appalling.

Ministers need to step up and act now, before another child is strip searched in such humiliating, traumatising circumstances.

Coffey attacks farming journalists

Responding to Therese Coffey saying about Farmers Weekly “I am not going to pretend to read it because I am into information and fact” and then complaining about the editor, Liberal Democrat Environment and Rural Affairs spokesperson Tim Farron said:

Comments like these demonstrate the hostility of the Conservative Government towards farmers just trying to get by.

Liberal Democrats will always back British farmers, working to protect their livelihoods from reckless trade deals and crippling basic payment cuts.

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This entry was posted in News and Press releases.


  • Mel Borthwaite 29th Mar '23 - 7:49am

    It is perfectly appropriate to strip search a child if the purpose is to protect life. So, for example, if a child presents as suicidal and it is believed they may possess something they could use to kill themselves, then a strip search may be in the child’s best interest. To require police officers to have to remove the child from the school and travel to another location to conduct such a strip search merely adds to the risk and prolongs the whole experience for the child.

  • I watched Sir Edward Davey ‘launch’ the party’s May local government campaign on television this morning. His main thrust was, “Lib Dems have called for 8,000 GPs to be recruited to save “on-the-brink” local health services”, and “called on the government to create a legal right for patients to see a GP within seven days”.

    Now, these are worthwhile and much needed objectives. But, as someone who was elected five times as a Liberal/Liberal Democrat Councillor, and been a Cabinet member for Social Care, could somebody please enlighten me as to which powers are available to elected local government councillors to enable them to implement such policies in the NHS if they are successful and get elected ?

  • Mel,
    Maybe but there should still be an Appropriate Adult present. After all it is the legislative law.That is the core issue and it appears to be being ignored in over half the cases.
    Involving someone under say 12 is an extreme sort of case.
    What the report revealed is that these searches are taking place on children and young persons under 18 without any AA present. From my working experience acting as an AA most searches involve drugs and the suspect is usually taken to the police custody unit where these discrete searches are carried out. I was shocked to learn from the report how many are seemingly carried out without the legal safeguards being met. Otherwise there is a very serious risk of the young person not understanding the situation, being devoid of objective, independent advice thereby leading potentially to the search taking place and possible resistance and restraining. The need for an AA to be present is paramount.

  • Nonconformistradical 29th Mar '23 - 3:39pm

    “Maybe but there should still be an Appropriate Adult present.”
    What about in a dire emergency if there simply isn’t time go bring an Appropriate Adult?

  • There is always someone close by who can act, family, teachers, social workers etc, it is important that the greatest care must be taken, if not you create a situation where the system will be more abused.
    Would anyone want their child to be strip searched without some support mechanism available. It is also a major help to the police who have to conduct the search because they have an observer present as well who may well respond in their favour if a complaint is made and the search has been correctly and appropriately carried out.
    It is the law after all.

  • Nonconformistradical 29th Mar '23 - 5:05pm

    “There is always someone close by who can act, family, teachers, social workers etc”

    Suppose the one person close by is themself a danger to the child. Suppose they have abused the child – possible reason why child might be suicidal?

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