Responding to a report by think-tank Policy Exchange on the future of general practice, Dr Farah Jameel, BMA GP committee England chair, said:
“With more than 26 million appointments delivered in January alone, general practice is undeniably the beating heart of the community. It’s encouraging to see that this report – backed by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – recognises the importance of what GPs and their teams do for their communities, understands that there are some deep-seated problems that need to be urgently addressed, and begins to articulate some ways to make general practice services sustainable for the future.
“Tackling extortionate box-ticking, and freeing-up highly skilled GPs’ time so they can spend more of it with patients who need it, are central to building a more efficient, patient-centred system. And we’ve seen glimmers of this when GPs were trusted to take control during the pandemic – without unnecessary red tape slowing us down, GPs were able to provide care for the sickest patients while keeping communities safe from the virus. Having GPs in the driving seat is essential to real, impactful change, especially as our population grows and demand on the NHS intensifies.
“We understand that modernising services across the health and care sector, of course, needs to take into account the needs of patients. The problem is that there are simply not enough GPs, and those that remain are being stretched thinner by the day. Every month, more and more GPs leave the service and the public are understandably horrified when they lose their local practice. A radical approach is necessary to address staff shortages, unbalanced investment and misaligned incentives. However, that does not mean taking a sledgehammer to the partnership model.
“The recent GP contract changes announced by NHS England and NHS Improvement demonstrate an example of the challenges we still face. Despite our best efforts to outline a number of positive and constructive solutions that would make a difference to practices’ ability to improve care for patients, NHS England has instead decided to follow a path laid out three years ago, long before the arrival of Covid-19, and roll over a contract that fails to address the current pressures faced by general practice.
“This is why, for all the talk about the future of general practice, it’s vital we don’t lose sight of what’s happening today. We can’t begin to build a better general practice if we don’t learn from what’s come before - not to mention learn from the pandemic - and, of course, involve GPs in designing the future. Only by listening to those on the frontline will we be able to make a real difference to those working in the service, as well as our patients who depend on us for safe, timely and high-quality care.”
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.