Vital that high quality general practice can thrive amid NHS changes, says BMA in response to Fuller Stocktake

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 26 May 2022
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Responding to the publication of the ‘Fuller Stocktake report’ on the next steps for integrating primary care in England, Dr Farah Jameel, BMA England GP committee chair, said:

“General practice’s strength and value lies in its ability to provide good quality care from within communities, offering continuity and reassurance for patients – which we know improves health outcomes.

“It is therefore positive to see this report recognise and champion the invaluable part that practices play in the health of their local areas, and why it is so vital that general practice is given a leading voice and role when it comes to overhauling health systems locally.

“Throughout the pandemic, practices seized the opportunity they were given through increased flexibility to quickly adapt for the better under the most difficult circumstances, and it’s particularly positive of both Dr Fuller and the accompanying King’s Fund analysis to recognise that this autonomy is far more valuable in improving outcomes for patients than top-down directives and micro-management.

“There is much to welcome in this report, but we cannot shy away from the challenges facing us. Just today we see figures revealing that we’ve lost the equivalent of almost 400 full-time, fully-qualified GPs in England in the last year, and we face sky-high demand as practices attempt to address a vast amount of unmet need in the community two years into a pandemic - often in completely inadequate surgery buildings.

“It’s refreshing to see Dr Fuller’s honesty about the scale of this challenge.

“GPs want to be able to provide timely care to all their patients, whether that’s an on-the-day appointment for someone who rarely needs to see a doctor, or ongoing treatment for a person with a long-term condition – but the reality is that without enough doctors, we’re often left unable to do both. This report presents some bold suggestions on how to begin to address this – but it will ultimately be determined by the Government’s willingness to act to properly resource practices, while addressing recruitment and retention.

“Dr Fuller highlights the need to reduce barriers to talented and skilled international GPs continuing work here, something the BMA has spoken frequently about, and the Government also needs to address punitive pension rules that are a huge disincentive for doctors to continue working and giving their all to patients.

“As we approach a worldwide healthcare workforce shortage, and face up to the reality that we have a changing face of our NHS workforce, it is also positive to see a reference to the NHS People Promise, but these can't simply be warm words and will need to be followed by real cultural changes.

“Meanwhile, we know funding often doesn’t reach the places it is needed most, making health inequalities worse in the most deprived areas, and this must change.

“With the NHS undergoing significant changes, it is vital that high-quality general practice is able to thrive, collaborating with colleagues as part of the wider system to deliver and meet the needs of patients. While the report highlights pockets where this is happening successfully already, we will continue to advocate on behalf of and call for more support for those areas that are struggling.

“This stocktake clearly lays out a desired direction of travel for care in our communities, setting a vision for what good looks like in primary care - while recognising the challenges and need for movement from Government and NHS England to fix the issues around workforce, estates and digital infrastructure. Ministers and policymakers must now take heed, listening to, supporting and working with GPs and their colleagues to ensure they can provide the standard of care that all patients deserve.

“As ever, general practice stands ready to play its part and will continue to deliver for its communities."

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.