GP patients likely to suffer unless Government improves inadequate GP contract offer, warns BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 1 February 2024

The BMA’s GP England committee has warned that patients will struggle even more than ever to get the care they need from their GP practice unless the Government decides to invest in general practice, at a rate greater than the current offer of less than 2%. 

The BMA’s GP England committee (GPC England) says that the 1.9% national GP practice contract baseline uplift offer, which gives practices a fixed amount of money per patient – called the GMS contract – goes nowhere near what is needed  prevent practices from reducing services, or closing down altogether.   

GPC England says that the 2024-25 GP contract will do little to bring hope, stability or safety to the profession. Details of the contract come at a time when a BMA survey of 10% of practices in England found almost two in three (64%) report concerns over short and long-term viability. More than half (57%) have experienced cashflow issues in the last 12 months. The BMA estimates that up to one in four GP surgeries will seriously consider reducing their staffing to remain open for patients. This was before this year’s derisory contract offer. 

At a meeting today, GPC England has today unanimously instructed its leadership team to continue talks with the Government and NHS England to address its concerns, and intends to put the final contract offer to a referendum vote of members on March 1st.   

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of GPC England, said:   

“After spending an hour with Minister Andrea Leadsom yesterday evening, I believe her when she said to me how much she values general practice, so I am glad that GPC England has mandated we keep these conversations open. 

“We have seen over 1,000 practices close since 2015, and with them the exodus of thousands more GPs from NHS roles, whilst patient numbers have risen by over six million. The current offer means that practices will not be able to break even, and will face awful choices over staff redundancies and service delivery which is incredibly concerning for GPs and patients in England. It is unconscionable that we are even seeing GPs out of work, and practices laying off staff to keep their doors open.

"We know a significant majority of practices which are struggling. Costs have risen driven by soaring inflation. 1.9% may be what was set by Treasury in their operational planning guidance back in 2021, but such slavish adherence to budget lines from three years ago is not replicated elsewhere in the NHS. This regrettably falls far below what we realistically need to keep our heads above water, and what GPC England has reasonably called for.  

“We proposed many cost neutral proposals and solutions, and we still have suggestions around what could be achieved, recycled or protected to sustain us through the challenging year ahead, such as to employ general practitioners and nursing staff to serve the needs of their patients both more effectively and efficiently in terms of value for money.   

“We have presented evidence and data which makes the unarguable economic case for investment in GP services. To ignore it risks saving pennies today in order to spend pounds tomorrow. It risks a swathe of practices facing no choice but to hand their contracts back, fuelling  unemployment for trained GPs willing and able to work, and for some practices to close for good. That would be a ridiculous waste of tax payers' money, and puts the care of the million plus patients we see each and every day at risk."

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. 

The GPCE (GP Committee England) recently ran a snapshot survey to assess the current state of GP practice finances. The survey ran from 8th December 2023 to 16th January 2024.   Submissions were verified by practice code, and approximately 600 practices completed the survey. 

Main summary findings: 

Staffing spend is significantly outpacing core funding uplifts. There is widespread concern and uncertainty over future viability: 

 

  • Have you experienced any cashflow challenges that have affected your practice operationally over the past twelve months?

Yes - 323 (57%)

No - 244 (43%)

  • Do you think the impact of inflation/rising costs could affect the short- or long-term financial stability of your practice?

Yes, short-term and long-term - 375 (64%)

Yes, short-term - 22 (4%)

Yes, long-term - 123 (21%)

No - 14 (2%)

Not sure yet - 54 (9%)

  • How worried are you about the impact of inflation on your practice's finances?

Not at all worried - 1 (0%)

A little worried - 30 (5%)

Moderately worried 142 (24%)

Very worried - 222 (38%)

Extremely worried - 191 (33%)