BMA’s England GP committee calls on Government to begin negotiations for revised fit-for-purpose GP contract in England

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 10 February 2022
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The BMA’s England GP committee (GPC England) is calling on the Government to commence negotiations for the next GP contract in England, as well as to support practices in meeting the ongoing demands placed on them in the wake of the pandemic.

During 2018, the BMA negotiated a five-year contract deal for general practice in England, with an agreement reached with NHS England in January 2019. Since then, details on implementation and additional amendments to the agreement have been negotiated annually.

In a meeting today, the committee passed a motion1 calling for Government to enter negotiations with GPCE for a refreshed, fit-for-purpose contract that enables practices to ably care for patients, and that adequately responds to the needs of general practice going forward. This came after discussing the latest proposals from NHS England for this year’s changes, and given that the five-year deal was reached long before the arrival of Covid-19 and all the additional and unprecedented challenges it brought for practices. Alongside this, the committee reaffirmed its commitment to the independent contractor model.

The motion also called for immediate support for practices in managing the record backlog in communities, so as to safely care for patients, and laid out the committee’s intention to begin plans for a profession-wide consultation on the future of General Practice. The committee will start work on engaging with GPs around the country to hear their views soon.

Dr Farah Jameel, BMA GPC England chair, said:

“Three years ago general practice – as indeed the world – was a different place. For those of us working on the frontline, the pace and scale of demand we are experiencing every day, despite these being intense back in 2019, are now on a level we have never had to deal with before. As a result, every month we continue to haemorrhage GPs from the profession as evidenced with falling numbers of full-time equivalent GPs, which has a direct impact on the care patients can expect to receive.

“So while the contract practices are currently bound to was agreed in good faith three years ago, it simply does not reflect the experiences and needs of GPs and their patients today.

“Throughout the pandemic practices have put the safe care of their patients first, booking record breaking volumes of appointments last year, with fewer GPs, and all while delivering the biggest vaccination campaign in history. We continue to see a rise in demand from patients, many of whom are waiting too long for care as a result of the NHS being placed under demand across the board. This includes those who are on the now 6 million strong waiting list for elective surgery or procedures, with 310,000 now waiting longer than a year and in need of ongoing care in the community.

“Meanwhile we have seen practices in England lose the equivalent of more than 500 full-time, fully-qualified GPs since the five-year deal was announced, despite repeated pledges from Government to recruit thousands more.

“We can’t ignore the profession’s sense of depreciating value within the NHS and in their communities, as professionals and individuals. Acts of abuse and aggression towards NHS staff add to this.

“We also can’t treat the profession as if the pandemic didn’t happen and wasn’t real for them. The psychological impact on their morale and wellbeing has been enormous.

“Going forward a ‘business as usual’ approach simply will not work, and with new leadership of our committee, this provides an opportunity to renew, reset and renegotiate a contract that delivers for both the profession and patients, and that addresses the key issue impacting general practice today: retention of our workforce.

“We know that traditional models have struggled to keep pace with evolving expectations and population health needs, there is opportunity to explore how changes can be made which support the best of what we have, while tackling the challenges of workforce shortages, tired outdated premises, a population with increasing medical complexity, and barriers across the primary, community, social care and secondary care interface.

“We also desperately need more immediate support in helping practices manage the knock-on effect of the elective backlog as well as the ‘invisible GP backlog’ of patients who have not come forward over the past two years and become increasingly unwell. We note in this week’s Elective Recovery Plan the commitment to address pressures in primary care2, and it is vital that the Government and NHS leaders honour this. They fail to support a GP recovery plan at the nation’s peril – for if general practice falls, the whole NHS falls.

“General practice remains excellent for individual patient care, yet it has for too long been underestimated and poorly supported by policymakers.

“Now is the time to remind Government how quality, cost-effective care, and continuity delivered within communities, benefits everyone, and coming together to develop a plan to safeguard its future in the pursuit of progress for our patients is the right way forward.”

Ends

Notes to editors

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. The motion in full:
    This Committee acknowledges the 2022/23 proposed contract amendments to the current five-year contract agreement and notes that further proposals are awaited and:
    i. Endorses the GPC England executive to negotiate additional support for general practices to deliver the recovery/backlog demands in 2022/23 and 2023/24.
    ii. Calls on the Government to support negotiations for a refreshed fit-for-purpose contract agreement beyond the 5-year agreement ending in 2023/24, which supports the independent contractor model.
    iii. Instructs GPCE executive to engage the GPCE committee in developing plans and begin a profession-wide consultation on the future of General Practice.
  2. Delivery plan for tackling the Covid-19 backlog of elective care. See footnote p4.