GP campaign - time to rebuild general practice

by Peter Blackburn

Doctors' leaders today launched a campaign to 'rebuild general practice' with GPs and services at 'breaking point'.

Location: England Scotland Wales
Last reviewed: 21 March 2022
Rebuild general practice logo next to stethoscope

The BMA and the GPDF are funding the campaign which will urge the Government to deliver on its commitment to deliver an additional 6,000 GPs in England by 2024. The campaign also demands that ministers and health leaders tackle the factors driving GPs out of the profession, such as burn out, and create a plan to reduce GP workload and improve patient safety.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, BMA GPs committee deputy chair Kieran Sharrock said: 'Even before the pandemic, general practice was on the edge. Now, we are facing the biggest public health crisis in a century.

'Covid has been relentless. Every day, colleagues around the country tell me about the challenges they face. Each has a unique story, but they are all united in one message: We are stretched to breaking point.'

Kieran Sharrock at the LMC conference in 2018 SHARROCK: Stretched to breaking point

Dr Sharrock added: 'To say healthcare staff are overworked is a titanic understatement. One survey from last July found that 51 per cent of GPs are suffering from burnout, depression, or other mental strain. And over the last year, the equivalent of 279 fully qualified, full-time GPs have left the workforce altogether.

'When I ask colleagues why they are reducing their hours, they tell me: "I cannot cope. I am burning out". 'Doctors worked around the clock to vaccinate and now, a backlog of non-COVID cases is starting to catch up with us, breaking like a tsunami over general practice.'

Recent data shows that on average GPs are conducting 37 appointments every day - almost 50 per cent more than the recommended number of 25. Last October GPs in England conducted more than 19 million appointments face-to-face.

Dr Sharrock said: 'Despite this heroic effort, demand is at record levels and there simply aren’t enough GPs. The result is our current crisis: Hospital waiting lists are longer than ever. People are living with undiagnosed illnesses. And families know the frustration of sitting on the phone, on hold calling up every day to try to book a doctor’s appointment.'

stressed GP 51 per cent of GPs are suffering from burnout, depression, or other mental strain

The campaign aims to give GPs across Great Britain the time back to deliver the quality of care they want to be able to give patients while ensuring patients are cared for by the right team member. It also aims to resolve the difficulties many patients are facing in getting timely GP appointments and to benefit the NHS as a whole by alleviating pressure on hospitals. It is hoped the campaign can also help to tackle the backlog which existed before, but has been exacerbated by, the pandemic.

Appealing directly to the Government, Dr Sharrock said: 'Ignoring the wellbeing of our people is at the NHS' peril… All that we are asking is that the Government trust GPs to lead.'

Also on the panel launching the campaign were Oxfordshire GP Rachel Ward and York GP Brian McGregor.

Dr Ward said: 'I feel I can’t give them [patients] the care that they deserve and the care I know that they need and that’s because every day we are basically firefighting.'

a GP 41632 'Every day we are basically firefighting.'

And Dr McGregor added: 'When you see 46 patients a day you get decision fatigue and then there is a risk to patient safety.'

Speaking in support of the campaign, former health secretary and current chair of the Commons health and social care committee, Jeremy Hunt, described general practice as the 'beating heart of the NHS' and said he was 'worried' the Government was failing to learn the lessons of the past on NHS workforce planning and could 'repeat the mistakes of history'.