England’s GPs overwhelmingly reject Health Secretary’s plan to ‘support’ general practice

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 19 October 2021
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Thousands of GPs in England have told the BMA that the Health Secretary’s package of measures to supposedly rescue general practice is useless. 93% of respondents surveyed by the BMA say it is an unacceptable response to the current crisis.

Almost 3,500 GPs in England took part in the snap poll1 after Sajid Javid published details of a package which he claimed was to improve access to GPs. However, doctors have made clear it would in fact increase workload and bureaucracy on GPs and their colleagues, reduce the number of appointments available, and impact the quality of patient care, while threatening to name-and-shame and penalise practices that need the most help.

The 93% figure is the clearest articulation yet that frontline GPs working across the country do not believe the plan will go any way to addressing the pressures facing general practice, staff and patients.

The BMA is warning that the impact of such a damaging move from the Government on staffing levels could be disastrous. The latest GP workforce figures show that England has lost around 1,800 full-time equivalent, fully-qualified GPs since 2015, despite the Government promising 6,000 more. However, Sajid Javid could be to blame for this number plummeting further. In addition to today’s survey results, a separate survey2 of more than 6,000 GPs in England, conducted in the week before the announcement, found that two-thirds (66%) of respondents were prepared to reduce their hours to protect themselves from the current crisis, while more than half (54%) shockingly said they would consider leaving the NHS all together if the Government did not provide them with the support they needed.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee England chair, said:

“This shows the profession has out and out rejected this shambles of a plan from the Government and NHS England. If the Health Secretary thinks it is enough to provide a lifeline to surgeries this winter, let alone save general practice in the long term, this response shows how wrong he is. The BMA provided the Health Secretary with a clear plan to help address the crisis in the short term, that could improve patient access and guarantee safe, high quality care, while also putting forward longer term solutions. He chose to ignore that and instead we have a shambolic plan that has failed before it has begun. These survey results show how angry and despondent GPs are. The profession clearly sees the Government’s name and shame approach as a bully’s charter, which will intensify existing problems.

“Patient care will suffer because imposing these measures could very well result in doctors having to spend even more time on paperwork and admin. But it may also result in GPs leaving the profession altogether. We have already lost the equivalent of more than 1,800 full-time, fully qualified, GPs in the last six years, and with a majority of family doctors now saying they could be forced to reduce their hours or leave the NHS all together because of a lack of support, the situation could get far, far worse. This will be on the Health Secretary’s watch. He will be to blame.”

The BMA’s England GP committee will meet later this week to discuss the package and what steps they, and the Association, wish to take next.

Ends

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. 3,453 GPs in England took part in an online survey between October 16 and 18, answering the question: “In your opinion as a GP, do you think the package is an acceptable response to the current challenges in general practice?”.
  2. 6,174 GPs in England took part in an online survey between 30 September and 13 October, which included the questions: “Would you be prepared to reduce your number of sessions/leave the NHS in response to the current crisis in general practice?”.