13 May 2014
The BMA has launched a major campaign calling for long-term, sustainable investment to tackle the pressures facing general practice.
Your GP cares aims to increase patient awareness of these pressures and urges politicians to take action.
The BMA wants the challenges of increasing workload, particularly rising numbers of older patients with complex and chronic conditions for whom the average 10-minute appointment simply is not long enough, addressed.
The number of patients seeking appointments has increased overall and many GP practice premises are deteriorating and struggle to accommodate patients’ needs.
All these factors contribute to the pressure on GP appointments.
These pressures are also having an impact on GP morale and affecting the recruitment and retention of doctors in general practice.
GP leaders want to see long-term, sustainable investment to:
- Expand the overall number of GPs to give patients the time, care and services they need
- Expand the numbers of other practice staff so each practice has enough nurses and support to meet the increasing needs of patients, particularly those who are older and vulnerable
- Improve the premises GP services are provided from and ensure local practices are fit for purpose.
The BMA is launching a set of campaign materials, including posters, at next week’s BMA local medical committees conference in York. These aim to help GPs explain the issues to their patients.
The association will be talking to politicians in the coming weeks.
BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said GPs cared immensely about their patients and were dismayed by the constraints having an impact on their services and undermining their ability to do their best for them.
He said: ‘The environment in which we work is becoming increasingly challenging. GPs across the country tell us they are constantly fire-fighting to provide the services their patients need, leading to exhaustion and stress.
‘We’re experiencing a workload crisis caused by rising patient demand, especially from those needing more complex care.’
He said the standard 10-minute appointment for these patients was not enough, yet increasing the time available would create more delays appointments for other patients.
Dr Nagpaul (pictured) warned: ‘This has been accompanied by a steady decline in the state of GP buildings and some practices facing closure from funding cuts.
‘It is no surprise that we are hearing from GPs that they are struggling to recruit new doctors and that the number of those wanting to enter the profession is failing, while increasing numbers intend to retire early.
‘All of this can have a detrimental effect on services, leaving patients frustrated as more and more are left waiting for appointments.
‘It is time we addressed these issues, which is why our campaign aims to show the true picture in general practice, and calls for the investment needed in GPs, practice staff and premises so we can deliver the care our patients deserve.’
The BMA campaign has been backed by the Royal College of GPs. College chair Maureen Baker said: ‘GPs and their teams are doing their best for patients but we cannot keep on doing more and more for less ... We stand shoulder to shoulder with our BMA colleagues to fight this growing chasm between funding and workload.
‘We hope that, by working together, we will ensure that general practice receives the resources it needs to keep the NHS sustainable and deliver the care that our patients need and deserve.’
Why we need a campaign now
The number of vulnerable patients is rising.
The 10 million patients aged over 65 need more than the 10 minutes available to them in a standard GP appointment.
NHS Scotland estimates that at least 24.2 million patient consultations are undertaken every year, up by 1.6 million since 2006.
NHS England estimates that at least 340 million patient consultations are undertaken every year, up by at least 40 million since 2008.
NHS Wales estimates that Wales has the highest rates of long-term limiting illness in the UK.
People are living longer. In Northern Ireland, the proportion of the population aged 75 and over is predicted to rise from 6.7 per cent in 2012 to 9.2 per cent in 2024.
As pressure mounts on general practice, six out of 10 GPs are considering retiring early, further worsening the workload crisis.
Read Dr Nagpaul's BMA blog on Your GP cares
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