The BMA has renewed its calls for proper funding for general practice, warning services risk collapsing if current pressures are not addressed by the government and NHS England.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme1 about the situation in Plymouth, where strains on services are particularly intense, Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, GP committee England deputy chair, said: “NHS England has a very simple choice: it either provides extra funding so that we can keep the service running, or they don’t and the service collapses.”
In Plymouth, workload and financial pressures forced four partners at one practice that was serving 22,000 patients to hand their contracts back, meaning NHS England had to call in a “rescue team” to provide services. One of the former partners, Dr Rachel Tyler, said that before she handed her contract back the situation was so bad that she was having to complete CQC paperwork from an oncology ward where she was herself undergoing cancer treatment.
Discussing the financial pressures she faced as a partner, Dr Tyler said: “We could have quite feasibly been homeless. All of us [former partners] have our own properties –we’ve got children – and we could have been left personally bankrupt.”
She added that she feared patients would be left with no GP services at all in the region if more doctors hand back their contracts.
Dr James Boorer, a GP partner elsewhere in Plymouth said he was struggling to cope and that his physical and emotional wellbeing were suffering as a consequence. “I cannot continue working at this intensity,” he told the programme. He said that resignation and working outside of general practice were now “very real” possibilities for him.
Responding to the BBC report, Dr Sanford-Wood, himself a GP in Devon, said:
“The situation in Plymouth may be particularly intense, but it should be seen as a warning of what the rest of the country faces without urgent action to address the pressures in general practice.
“Patients are already facing unacceptable waits as doctors face unmanageable and potentially unsafe workloads, while increasingly burdensome administrative tasks mean GPs are able to spend less time on the front line delivering care to those who need it.
“The current funding settlement in general practice means most practices are operating on the edge of viability, and unless more is done by the government and NHS England – which includes addressing the severe recruitment and retention crisis – we are likely to soon see a repeat of the scenes in Plymouth across the country.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a 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.
1. Listen to the full report here. Coverage begins at approximately 1hr32