‘Let’s build general practice back better’: Dr Farah Jameel delivers inaugural speech as chair of BMA’s England GP committee

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 25 November 2021

The new chair of the BMA’s England GP committee has laid out her vision to the profession today, appealing to the Government and GPs to work together to “build general practice back better” and said that now is a “defining moment for general practice in England”.

In her inaugural speech1 as chair of GPC England, Dr Farah Jameel, highlights the immense efforts of GPs throughout the pandemic, including the hugely successful vaccination campaign, but says that family doctors have been left “demoralised, broken and exhausted”.

Addressing the Annual Conference of England LMC2 representatives, being held virtually, Dr Jameel, a GP in Camden, north London, said:

“When this country and the world faced the biggest public health crisis of a generation, against all odds, we dug deep, we rose to the challenge, we stood up to be counted.”

But pointing to the significant workforce shortages, a record backlog in care and this winter presenting possibly the biggest challenge yet for GPs and their colleagues across the health service, she warned:

“It has become too much for many of us. I, like many, have had to reduce my sessions. I, like many, have faced abuse from patients and been left scared and disheartened. I, like many, have become overwhelmed with the complexity of need and isolation I see in my community. Every step of the way our desire to help, our energy to serve is hampered by the system we work in and dampened by the restraints of a lack of resources that we so desperately need in order to care for our communities.

“Patients are angry, they feel let down. Health care professionals are exhausted, they feel unheard and they also feel let down, and universal healthcare is on its knees. Abuse, aggression and everyday acts of incivility are rising exponentially. Right here, right now is a defining moment for general practice in England.”

Dr Jameel also discussed the results of the indicative ballot of GP practices in England3, launched by the BMA after the profession rejected the Government’s so-called winter ‘rescue package’ for general practice, which asked them what action they might be willing to take.

Eighty-four per cent of respondents said they would welcome non-compliance with Covid-19 exemption certificate requests, 80 per cent said they would change the way they reported appointment data, 58 per cent said they would support withdrawal from the Primary Care Network  Directed Enhanced Service (PCN DES4) at the next opt-out period and 39 per cent said they would be willing to disengage from the PCN DES before the next opt-out period.

“The results showed that GPs and practice staff are frustrated, struggling and are desperate to see change, it is an overwhelming expression of sentiment, a sentiment of discontent and disappointment,” she said.

She continued:

“General practice is ready to break, and mark my words, without us the NHS will fail and the principles we all hold dear, the values of fairness and equality which make the NHS so revered and so admired, will all be lost.”

But looking to the future, and appealing to both the profession and the Government she said:

“My election as the new leader of GPC England represents an opportunity for a reset. It is, naturally, a fresh start for the committee but it also needs to be a fresh start for the profession. 

“There is so much work to do immediately and longer term.

“We need to rebuild our workforce and firmly place wellbeing at the heart of our priorities.

“We need to give GPs time to see the patients who need them the most, time to lead their teams, time to keep up to date with the revolution in healthcare, and time to look after themselves.

“We need to learn the lessons of the pandemic and work with patients and partner organisations to develop the models of consultation for the future based on a blend of traditional and cutting-edge technology. 

“Today, I offer the Government and the media the opportunity to participate in this fresh start – to step back from the rhetoric of division, to reflect on the dedication that general practice has shown in the most difficult of circumstances and to demonstrate a willingness to work together to create solutions to this crisis. Let’s work together, let’s ‘build general practice back better’.”

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. Read the speech in full.
  2. 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.  More information about LMCs and a link to stream the conference are available here.
  3. Following the publication of NHSEI and the Government’s plan in October, between 1 and 14 November, the BMA surveyed the 5,144 practices in England which have a GP Partner who is a member of the BMA – representing approximately 79% of all GP practices in England – on four options they might be willing to take. Each practice was given one vote.
    Of the 1,798 eligible responses received:
    • 84% said they would be willing to not comply with requests for Covid-19 vaccination exemption certificates;
    • 80% said they would be prepared to participate in a coordinated and continuous change to their appointment book;
    • 58% said they would be prepared to withdraw from the Primary Care Networks DES at the next opt-out period;
    • 39% said they would be prepared to disengage from the Primary Care Networks DES at outside of the next opt-out period.
      Furthermore 87% said they would be prepared to refuse to comply with the contractual requirement for GPs to declare their income if it was over £150,000. This policy has since been delayed until at least next Spring.
      Response rate for the indicative ballot was 34.95%.

  4. The PCN DES (Primary Care Network Directed Enhanced Service) is a separate contract to provide patient care and services that practices enter into, working in groups with other local practices, and which has its own requirements and bureaucracy.