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While the Government has been focused on ministerial changes, the reality for patients and those who work in the NHS is that they continue to suffer from the effects of a decade of underfunding in the health and social care services, with rising workload and longer waiting times to access care.
Against this background routine procedures are being postponed from Newcastle to Newquay and Hereford to Harwich as the only means to ensure sufficient hospital capacity to cope with the seasonal influx of emergencies.
This causes work to back up in the community generating more work for GPs and their staff who are already spread so thinly. General practice needs the benefit of similar help to hospitals in being allowed to suspend some aspects of normal activity to free up time to deal with these pressures and focus our services on those patients who need us most. To this end, following the announcement to suspend QOF (Quality and Outcomes Framework) activity in Wales, we have asked NHS England to suspend QOF in view of the serious workload pressures practices are under.
GPs in Wales welcomed the sensible action taken last year by their administration to suspend QOF which worked well without degrading patient care. We believe NHS England should take similar action and by doing so demonstrate their support for practices who are working exceptionally hard to ensure vital patient care is not compromised.
The ultimate answer to these challenges is for the NHS to receive the funding it needs to provide the care people deserve, but in the meantime the relaxation of targets, central to releasing emergency capacity, must extend across the whole system.
State-backed indemnity scheme
We have called on the Government to maintain its commitment to the introduction of a state-backed GP indemnity scheme in England by April 2019. Following the announcement of the scheme we wrote to the Department of Health, calling for increased efforts and for detailed proposals on the structure, scope, operation and funding of the new state-backed scheme. They have responded to confirm that they will continue involving the BMA in the discussions and plans for the scheme.
We will meet with the Department, NHS England and the Royal College of GPs on 17 January when we hope to hear more details about the proposals and will ensure the views of the profession are made clear. We will continue to meet with the three main medical defence organisations to discuss the new scheme, and Richard Vautrey also raised this important issue in his meeting with health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt today.
CQC inspection postponements
The CQC (Care Quality Commission) has taken the decision to pause some routine inspections of GP practices and urgent care services planned for January. This is in response to increased pressure on the health and care system as services struggle to cope with additional demand. While this is an encouraging move, it demonstrates the extent of the strain on the NHS.
GPC has called on NHS England to demonstrate similar understanding and work with the BMA to agree measures to remove performance targets and other system measurements in order to release clinicians for front line clinical care for the benefit of patients.
Read more about this on the CQC website
This was also reported in Pulse
Focus on registration for overseas visitors
The BMA GPs committee has updated its guidance on the new contractual requirements regarding the registration of overseas visitors (GMS1 and GMS3 forms), introduced as part of the 2017/18 contract agreement. The new guidance can be found here
It has been confirmed that, following the Cabinet office reshuffle, health secretary Jeremy Hunt will remain at the Department of Health and will now be called secretary of state for health and social care. In addition, Philip Dunne, former health minister, has been replaced with two new ministers for the Department of Health and Social Care, Caroline Dinenage and Stephen Barclay, and Steve Brine is the Parliamentary under secretary of state with responsibility for primary care.
BMA GPs committee chair Richard Vautrey met with Mr Hunt today to discuss the issues facing general practice, not least the workload pressures experienced by practices and the GP recruitment and retention crisis that in turn is adding to the workload burden. It's fundamental to the functioning of the wider NHS that we tackle these issues, and we've outlined in Saving General Practice how this could be done.
CCG transformation funding for general practice
We have been monitoring the planned CCG (clinical commissioning group) transformation funding for general practice through a Freedom of Information request to all CCGs in England. Local medical committees have been sent a letter from Chandra Kanneganti, General Practice Forward View policy lead, detailing the results of this request. The majority of CCGs do plan to provide the full funding, with many choosing to split it evenly over the two years.
Asthma UK's annual care survey
In last week’s bulletin, we reported that we had written to Asthma UK raising our concerns about its recent post on Facebook, asking for patients to share experiences of bad asthma care from their GP surgeries.
It replied to explain that the intention was to gather anecdotal information from patients with asthma about their experiences, positive and negative, and that the initial Facebook post was misworded and has now been amended. It has apologised for the concerns it caused, and taken steps to avoid it happening again.
Supporting mental health in general practice
Mind, the mental health charity, has a released a survey that looks into GPs’ experiences in supporting people with mental health problems, including training in mental health, as well as well-being and what support mechanisms are in place to support GPs.
To take the survey, please click here
Sleep deprivation and fatigue
A BMA briefing paper on fatigue and sleep deprivation, which explores the impact of different working patterns on doctors, has now been published here. It is accompanied by guidance on anticipating and managing fatigue associated with doctors’ working patterns.
GPC regional general elections 2018 to 2021
Nominations for the GPC regional representatives 2018-2021 will open on Friday 12 January.
Nominations are sought in the election of voting members of the BMA GPs committee, as regional representatives for the following constituencies:
Nominations forms and full instructions will be available on the BMA website from 9am on Friday 12 January: bma.org.uk/gpcelections with a deadline of 5pm on Thursday 1 February 2018.
If you have any queries please contact [email protected]
Nominations for BMA council 2018-2022
The nominations for BMA council for 2018 to 2022 opens on 8 January, closing on 12 February.
From 2018 BMA council is becoming more representative. The new council will be almost double in size, with between 58 and 74 members. Each will represent a branch of practice, one of 10 regions of England and the devolved nations, or the UK generally. For the first time there will be a limit how many elected members in each ‘category’ are from the same gender. The nominations are open to BMA members only, with the term of office commencing Summer 2018.
For more information about the election process, please visit this link to download the candidates information booklet. Nominations must be made via www.ersvotes.com/bmanoms2018