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GPs warn government: fund service properly or it will collapse

GP leaders respond to BBC investigation into ‘particularly intense’ pressure on Plymouth general practice

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

General practice risks collapsing unless the government and NHS England fund the service properly, the BMA and Royal College of GPs have warned. They were responding to a BBC investigation into general practice in Plymouth, where pressures are ‘particularly intense’ and some GPs have handed back their contracts.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme has spoken to GPs in the city, where workload and financial pressures have combined to force four partners at one practice of 22,000 patients to hand back their contracts as the situation was having such a serious impact on their physical and emotional wellbeing, so NHS England had had to call in a ‘rescue team’ to provide services. One of the GPs, herself undergoing cancer treatment, said she had even had to fill in Care Quality Commission paperwork from her oncology ward.

The RCGP said it was ‘profoundly concerning’ that GP surgeries have had to close their doors to patients because they simply could not cope with increasing demand, or were finding it too difficult to recruit new GPs – but noted that the situation was UK-wide, not just confined to Plymouth. It said closures could have a terrible impact on both patient care and neighbouring surgeries.

RCGP chair professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Practices will only hand back their contract to the NHS as a last resort, when all other avenues have been exhausted, but distressingly, this case in Plymouth is not unique and we are hearing of similar examples right across the UK.

“We know GPs are under incredible pressure, and that this is affecting their own health and wellbeing – but it is also unsafe for patients. It isn’t good for anyone to work a 12-hour day in clinic, and then have a mountain of paperwork to do on top of that.”

She pointed out that the RCGP has consistently highlighted the pressures facing general practice, and the impact this is having on patient care, and she called for urgent and full implementation of the extra funding and GPs promised in NHS England’s GP Forward View.

The BMA has also demanded proper funding from the government and NHS England, which it said is essential to avoid collapse of services.

Devon GP and BMA GP committee chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, told Today: “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.”

He added: “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 frontline 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.”

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