GP leaders have called on the government to end its scapegoating of GPs in light of recent comments by the prime minister.
In a message to the profession, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair said:
“I was shocked and dismayed by media reports of the prime minister’s attacks on GPs for being a cause of the crisis in the NHS and hospital pressures – and of reports that GP practices would be required to open seven days a week or face funding cuts.
“These reported comments made a little more than a week ago were unacceptable and a slur on the profession. I responded swiftly and robustly on its behalf to rebut this shameful attempt by the Government to deflect blame for its underfunding of the NHS, and its attempt to scapegoat an overstretched and understaffed GP workforce working flat out, keeping the NHS afloat on a daily basis.
“As soon as the story broke, I led the fight back for the profession in the media. I denounced the Government’s comments as an ‘insult’ to GPs who already provide 24-hour services, 365 days a year, and instead to take responsibility for a crisis of its own making.
“Importantly, we used the opportunity yet again to focus public awareness of the crisis affecting general practice itself, with media headlines reporting the detail from our recent survey of the profession – more than eight in ten GPs say they cannot provide safe, quality care owing to workload pressures; that we have a severe workforce shortage where one in three practices has unfilled GP vacancies; and that hundreds of practices have closed, buckling under this strain.
“All in all, I believe that the No 10 spin doctors got it badly wrong and that the BMA successfully managed to thwart the Government’s desperate attempt to distract the public, and we laid bare the real cause of the crisis in the NHS – which is the fact that it is woefully under resourced, and without the infrastructure, tools and people to provide for the needs of our population.
“I have spoken to NHS England and the Department of Health and, contrary to the headlines, there will be no obligation on individual GP practices to be open for seven days, or beyond their current contractual hours. The GP Forward View proposals for extended access via locality hubs still applies as before, which also allows for local commissioning flexibility relating to appointments on Saturdays and Sundays based on demand.
“Finally, the glaring omission from the Government was, of course, the basic courtesy of a thank you – to recognise the extraordinary efforts of GPs and their staff, working against all odds to look after more than one million patients daily.
“GPC will continue to fight for the survival of general practice and for the necessary investment for GPs to be able to do our jobs properly and provide safe, high-quality care to patients.”
Notes to Editors
A copy of the email sent to BMA GP members can be read here.