Health secretary Matt Hancock was at the centre of controversy after he appeared to encourage the public to put more pressure on their GPs.
He spoke as a GP leader urged the government to recognise the impact of workload on doctor morale and recruitment.
Speaking as the government unveiled its programme for the NHS, Mr Hancock urged the public to be concerned about their health as part of prevention.
He said: “I don’t believe in the worried well – I want healthy people to be concerned about their own health so they stay healthy.”
Yesterday the Queen set out the government’s objectives for the coming year in the Queen’s Speech and announced an NHS Bill, which will guarantee the £33 billion extra funding promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The speech gave limited detail on how the government will meet its promise to recruit 6,000 extra GPs – but confirmed a promise to introduce an NHS visa to streamline recruitment from overseas after Brexit.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “General practice is the first point of contact with our health service for over a million of patients every day, helping to alleviate pressures across the rest of the NHS, particularly hospitals and other secondary care services.
“Patients shouldn’t have to wait three weeks to see their GP and GPs want to offer more high quality consultations, but we are working at – and in many cases, more than – full capacity. This is leading to dedicated GPs burning out, and in some cases leaving the profession earlier than they planned to. We have more GPs in training than ever before, but when more are leaving general practice than entering it, we are fighting a losing battle.
“Retaining our GPs, and better supporting them to care for their patients, must be an initial priority for your Government and is essential if GPs are able to continue to provide safe and personalised care in the community.”
He added: “Investing in general practice is investing in the entire NHS, which is why it is so essential that GPs and their teams get the support they need to offer patients better access to primary care services and longer consultations with those that need them.”