The BMA sent the below letter to The Times for publication, in response to a column by James Kirkup on GP pay and working patterns:
While James Kirkup is right to highlight the importance of addressing health inequalities, this should be viewed as part of a wider discussion around the social determinants of health and the underpinning services to support our population.
In relation to the longstanding workforce crisis in general practice and the impact this continues to have on patients and their access to services, Mr Kirkup’s assertion that by cutting GP pay and making general practice an even less attractive career destination for doctors is completely counter-intuitive.
Hard-working family doctors are not reducing their hours because their wages allow them to work ‘part-time. The stresses and pressures of the job right now are so high that in not doing so they would burn out completely. Indeed, throughout the pandemic, repeated surveys from the BMA found that more than half of GPs were struggling with mental health problems caused by their work.
Meanwhile, many of these doctors are not working ‘part-time’ at all – instead they are putting in extra hours elsewhere in the NHS in addition to the hours they already work in their practice. The majority of GPs are now women and the flexibility that general practice offers has helped recruit and retain doctors of all backgrounds who may also have additional health, family and caring responsibilities. It’s vital that we value and support all of these doctors so we have a medical workforce that reflects and understands the diversity of the population we serve. Ultimately, without them, the situation would be even worse than the current crisis we are experiencing.
Ultimately, if we are to boost the GP workforce and encourage more doctors to work and stay in primary care, we need to make it a more attractive destination - addressing unsustainable workloads and giving surgeries the improvements to staffing levels, technology and infrastructure that they need.
Dr Samira Anane, BMA GP committee workforce policy lead
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.
- An edited version of the letter was published by The Times.