Government’s ‘rescue package’ for GPs is flawed and patient care will suffer as result, warns BMA

BMA press release. 

Location: England
Published: Thursday 14 October 2021
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Responding to the publication by the Department of Health and NHS England and NHS Improvement today, outlining their plans to improve access for NHS patients and support for GPs, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said:

“After weeks of promising an ‘emergency package’ to rescue general practice, we’re hugely dismayed that whilst additional funding has been promised, the package as a whole offers very little and shows a Government completely out of touch with the scale of the crisis on the ground.

“GPs and their teams will now be facing the worst winter for decades, and as a result, patients’ care will suffer. Appointments will be harder to book, waiting times will get longer, more of the profession could leave and GPs will struggle to cope.

“It is also disappointing to see that there is no end in sight to the preoccupation with face-to-face appointments; we need a more intelligent conversation about the variety of appointments and care that are available to patients to meet their needs.

“While in-person consultations are a key feature of general practice and absolutely necessary for some patients and certain conditions, the pandemic has proven that in many other cases, phone or video appointments are entirely appropriate and appreciated by patients, and a crude focus on percentages or targets is completely unhelpful.

“Throughout our discussions with ministers and NHS England in recent weeks, the BMA has been clear that without a concerted effort to reduce bureaucracy, admin and red tape in practices, patient access and care was at risk.

“Unfortunately, today’s offer merely tinkers around the edges, and will not reduce the unnecessary burden practices carry and therefore free up any more time for doctors to see more patients. We need an end to target-driven, payment-by-results, care and allow practices to look after patients in a way that is flexible and right for the person in front of them and the Government have missed an opportunity to tackle this.

“Reducing the administrative burden on GPs by reforming who can provide medical evidence and certificates such as Fit notes and DVLA checks, won't happen for some time and is a mere drop in the ocean as what is needed is urgent action now to free up sufficient time for more appointments.

“While the additional £250m is welcome, it must be easy for practices to access rapidly and they must not be forced to have to produce reams of plans or try to meet unattainable targets to get it  - which has often happened in the past.

“We had four simple asks – and only one appears to have been fully answered. Increased sentencing for assaulting healthcare workers is something we asked for, but meaningless if the same Government refuses to address the crisis fuelling such abuse.  The Secretary of State has started to address a second, by talking more positively about general practice but he needs to do much more to publicly support the profession when we are under such pressure and facing a torrent of abuse on a daily basis.

“These proposals will only confirm the profession's belief that ministers and NHS England fail to understand the dire state of general practice – or that they, not hardworking GPs, are to blame. It’s truly frightening that we have a government so ignorant to the needs of such a core part of the NHS. GPs want to improve the care we offer to our patients, but today’s offer will not enable us to do that as we had hoped.

“GPs across England will be truly horrified that this is being presented as a lifeline to general practice, when in reality it could sink the ship all together. There can be no doubt that this lack of action at such a critical time will force many GPs to hang up their stethoscopes and leave the profession for the last time.”

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.

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