Banning GPs from working in certain areas will not solve health inequalities, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 9 November 2021
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The BMA submitted the following letter1 to The Times for publication, in response to an article on its front page which proposed a policy to prevent GPs working in certain areas to encourage them to work in places with fewer doctors.

There is no question that health inequalities are a real problem, and there needs to be a cross-governmental approach to ensure that people’s health and life chances are not determined by where in the country they are born or live.
The principle that everyone should have access to high quality healthcare regardless of where they live is one that nobody would object to.
However, simply banning family doctors from taking up roles in certain areas is not the answer.
The bottom line is we have a major national shortage of GPs, and a strong-arm tactic of telling existing doctors where they can and cannot work will do nothing to solve this.
Working in more deprived areas where people tend to have greater and more complex health needs requires very specific skills, and forcing doctors to practise in places that are not right for them is unlikely to encourage them to stay in the profession or indeed serve the best interests of patients in the long run. We need more GPs and to support those working in the most challenging areas with proper resources so that these places can both deliver for patients and become more attractive places to work for staff.
Overall, the Government must get a grip of the national GP staffing crisis, recruiting new doctors to general practice and retaining the GPs we do have by scrapping unnecessary bureaucracy, addressing punitive pension rules and ending the anti-GP narrative that is resulting in attacks on the profession, causing morale to plummet and leaving many to decide to give up practice all together.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair

Leeds, West Yorkshire

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. An edited copy of the letter was published and can be read on the Times' website.
  2. Across the board, the NHS has suffered from poor workforce planning for years, and to narrowly focus on general practice misses the bigger picture. The BMA is pushing for an amendment to the health and care bill to ensure the Government takes more responsibility and accountability for safe staffing, by making it easier to scrutinise whether we’ve got the right staff working in the right places to meet the growing needs of patients.