NHS diagnostic plans will only increase GP workload without adequate funding, BMA warns

by BMA media office

BMA press release. 

Location: England
Published: Thursday 3 August 2023
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Responding to plans by NHS England to allow GP practices to directly order diagnostic checks, Dr Kieran Sharrock, acting chair of GPC England at the BMA, said:

“While we acknowledge NHS England’s efforts to tackle winter pressure demands, the notion that it can do so by increasing the GP workload is frankly counteractive. These kinds of fast-tracked diagnostic referrals come with the expectation that additional work, such as performing complex investigations not part of a normal GP service, will be done prior to referral and NHSE has provided no details on how already overstretched GPs will undertake the extra work required.

“Patient referral is a complex process, and many GPs report that their referrals are being returned or blocked by the advice and guidance system with demands for further investigations, treatments, information. GPs then must re-refer and this not only increases workload but causes further delays for patients. While NHSE suggest they want to enhance GP access to direct diagnosis and shift the workload from hospitals it makes no reference to how it plans to fund the new work that will now be placed on already overwhelmed general practice.

“Wanting to free up consultant’s time is sensible but to do so by overburdening another part of the health service is illogical. It’s time our politicians stop playing whack a mole with our NHS. The entire health service is struggling to cope with demand and the only way to fix the issues at hand is to provide the NHS with adequate funding. Only then will patients be able to receive the care that they deserve in good 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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