General practitioner England

Last updated:

Underinvestment threatens safe care, says GP leader

Disinvestment in general practice by successive governments has drastically hampered doctors’ ability to provide safe care, BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul has warned MPs.

Dr Nagpaul (pictured) made the warning during a hearing of the Commons health select committee on 15 December into primary care, pointing out that GP numbers, as a proportion of NHS doctors, has consistently fallen over recent years.  

He said: ‘What I find extraordinary is how well GPs are managing to continue to acquire services in the face of what seems to be an impossible task.’

Dr Nagpaul, who was joined at Tuesday’s hearing by Royal College of GPs council chair Maureen Baker, and Care Quality Commission chief inspector of general practice Steve Field, also questioned the value of practice inspection ratings.

He said that the system of aggregate ratings was too simplistic and risked masking aspects of good and bad performance in individual practices.

He said: ‘Just ranking them [surgeries] without understanding the context, I think, doesn’t help.

‘There is a real vacuum of proper data, of proper information, information that should not be just aggregated and lumped together in simplistic terms.’

Both Dr Nagpaul and Dr Baker highlighted that underinvestment in general practice, tied in with increasing patient demand and a reducing workforce, meant most doctors were unable to provide the quality of care needed in the 10-minute consultation timeframe, making the provision of quality care impossible.

He said: ‘You can have all the systems you like but you simply can’t see a patient with multiple morbidity, who is 80 years old may have memory impairment … and do it [the consultation] in 10 minutes, it just cannot be done safely.’

The BMA has consistently highlighted to MPs how the UK’s ageing population coupled with a shrinking of resources for general practice had left ‘an impoverished infrastructure’ within primary care.

The association has urged for greater efforts to tackle recruitment and retention of GPs, as well as providing clarity over funding and financial support for struggling surgeries.

Read more from Tim Tonkin and follow on Twitter.