The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is urging as many people as possible to contribute to a new consultation on its vision of the future of general practice to 2022, which puts GPs at the heart of a transformation of health services.

The College's current ambitions for longer training, increased numbers of GPs and longer consultation times form the backdrop to the 2022 consultation paper, which looks at the following four main areas: - the current role of general practice and GPs in the UK; - general practice as a driver of improved health outcomes through disease prevention and by providing rapid diagnosis and access to specialist care when required; - future challenges - ageing populations, increased volume and complexity of care, financial constraints, structural changes and health inequalities; and - working in new ways - including new models of delivering care, developing new skills and taking on new roles.

"For GPs to play their rightful role in caring for patients in the NHS, it is important that there are enough GPs to deliver care, that these doctors have sufficient time both in and outside the consultation to provide the interventions needed and that the doctors have sufficient training to develop the competencies required to undertake the roles expected from then," says the College. 

The consultation document sets out three main areas for action, namely to: - increase the number of new GPs who enter the profession, by promoting general practice as a career amongst medical students and improve the way in which general practice is viewed and valued; - retain the existing workforce, by increasing levels of support and resources, particularly in areas where GPs are under most pressure, and providing better support for returners; and - advance the development of the profession, by extending postgraduate training from three to four years, equipping GPs with new skills and supporting research and innovation.

The College has also compiled a “compendium of evidence" which it says demonstrates how general practice can be the driving force for transforming the health service over the next decade.

This suggests that GPs will have to be able to structure care around both multi-morbidity and individual conditions, supporting self-care and shared decision-making, and developing evidence-based interventions for the new challenges which lie ahead. Future practitioners will also need to become more expert in their generalist skills, especially in the context of managing medical conditions and dealing with polypharmacy.

The future patient will likely access a nurse or GP remotely, attend virtual "outpatient" clinics and communicate with their GP via text message or Facebook, the compendium adds. Patients will in future be able to move from registration to treatment remotely, and be able to interact with their GP with full access to and control of their medical records, it adds.

It also forecasts that the gatekeeper role of the GP will diminish, with patients more than likely to be able to self-refer for physiotherapy, talking therapies, etc. The GP's role will be as a community generalist, leader of multidisciplinary and integrated teams, working closely with nurses, health practitioners and community-based specialists.

"Like physicians, the future GP is likely to be primarily an expert in the application of a biophsychosocial approach to the diagnosis and management of disease, able to manage patients with long-term multiple chronic diseases," says the compendium. 

"The future GP must have time and opportunities to interact more closely with their specialist colleagues - who themselves will need to leave the traditional hospital setting and provide their expertise in a more flexible manner than the traditional 'out-patient' model," it adds.

The consultation runs until October 8. Respondents are asked to complete an on-line questionnaire or submit views via email to: