General practice needs ‘real and meaningful support’ during Covid recovery, says UK GP leader

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 11 May 2021

The leader of Britain’s GPs will today call for “real and meaningful support” for practices as they continue to play a vital role in the country’s pandemic recovery.

Speaking to grassroots GPs from across the four nations at a conference held virtually, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee UK chair, will say the past 14 months have tested “every GP team and individual like never before”.

He will say: “It has been a hard and difficult time that has left many physically exhausted and mentally drained… But it has shown the profession at its best.

“We have responded to this unprecedented situation and we have risen to and met the challenge.”

However, he will highlight the historic workforce and workload crises in general practice that have now been exacerbated by the pandemic, and call for Governments to act to act to address them.

He will say: “We don’t just need our patients’ understanding, we have often had that throughout this last year, we need governments to act. Not just with letters of thanks, which have been welcome, but with real and meaningful supportive action. We don’t just need short term fixes, but a long-term commitment to investment and development of general practice, to properly redress the years that have left us as we are. We cannot allow another crisis to hit us without being better prepared.”

Dr Vautrey’s address comes as:

  • GP appointment data reveals that there were almost 5 million more appointments in England in March than in February, and almost 3 million more than there were in March 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.
  • Workforce figures show that the NHS in England lost more than 900 GP partners between March 2020 and March this year.
  • A BMA survey found that a third of GPs said they were more likely to retire early following the pandemic and one in five said they were more likely to leave the NHS for another career, citing workload and their own health and wellbeing as the primary reason.

On the appointment data and workload, he will say:

“But this data only tells part of the story. It fails to show the complexity of what we deal with each day. It fails to show the additional activity, the growing number of prescriptions reviewed and signed, the large amount of investigations processed. It fails to recognise the intensity and pressure on our reception staff dealing with huge numbers of telephone calls and the rapidly growing number of e-consult requests. It fails to recognise the shifted work and the need to manage far more patients waiting for procedures or appointments as general practice is impacted by the serious backlog in work in secondary care and elsewhere in the system. And it fails to show the bureaucracy that we and our practice managers still have to contend with but which somehow alongside everything else we manage.”

At the conference, representatives from the UK’s 124 local medical committees will discuss and debate on key issues for general practice including workforce, workload, the impact of Covid and the vaccination campaign, and pay and conditions.

On the vaccination campaign he will say:

“The remarkable achievement of delivering the Covid vaccination programme so quickly and effectively despite all the challenges and difficulties, and after also delivering the biggest ever flu vaccine campaign, is down to the dedication and hard work of so many people in general practice. The nation owes you a huge debt of gratitude. But it’s also a sign of the strength and benefit of the independent contractor model of general practice, something this conference has repeatedly highlighted year after year.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association 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. LMCs are local representative committees of NHS GPs and represent their interests in their localities to the NHS health authorities. LMCs interact and work with the BMA’s general practitioners committee in various ways but are not regional BMA offices.
  2. More information about LMCs and a link to stream the conference are available here.