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GP patient care quality sliding into ‘state of emergency’

BMA survey shows half of practices say care is deteriorating

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 03 February 2016

More than half of GP practices taking part in a BMA survey released today say the care they are able to provide for patients is deteriorating steadily due to growing work pressures.

The government, however, has rejected the gloomy picture presented by the BMA, saying that it was investing significantly in general practice and the last round of recruitment for new GPs had been very successful.

The BMA gathered responses from almost 2,900 GP practices in England – around a third of all practices in the country – after asking them about their current workload.

More than half (55%) of practices said the quality of service in their practice had deteriorated in the past 12 months. Only 2% of practices said their workload was low or generally manageable.

More than half (55%) said their workload was unmanageable a lot of the time while 13% said it was unmanageable all of the time.

The vast majority of practices (92%) said there had been a rise in demand for appointments in the past 12 months.

Regionally, the West Midlands had the highest level of unmanageable workload with 16% of GP practices recording this level, while the South of England reported the biggest deterioration in patient care with 66% saying it had declined.

The BMA has now produced a “heatmap” of Parliamentary constituencies showing the worst affected areas and is launching a new initiative for GP practices called an Urgent Prescription for General Practice.

The campaign will include sending every GP practice in England a package of support materials, including guidance on how to manage workload safely.

Dr Beth McCarron, BMA GP executive team member said: “These figures clearly show that general practice is in a state of emergency with the majority of GP practices across England registering a deterioration in the quality of care being delivered to patients.

“This is clearly the result of rising workload, including increasing patient demand for appointments which is placing unsustainable pressure on GP services that have been starved of resources and staff.

“This comes at a time when GP practices are seeing 150,000 more patients each day than in 2010, but have seen no extra resources to maintain effective, safe care to the public.

“Politicians have to realise that general practice is currently running on empty. GPs desperately want to provide the best possible service for patients: this is why GPs became doctors, but we have to be given the tools and support to provide patients with the service they deserve.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the BMA’s survey was not totally representative because it only included a third of practices.

Health minister Alistair Burt said: “General practice is at the heart of the improvement we want to see in the NHS. We recognise absolutely that it is under pressure, which is why we are delivering record investment with funding for the sector increasing by around 5% every year for the rest of the Parliament, as we commit to 5,000 more doctors in general practice.

“The health secretary will shortly announce further support for GPs, which should assist in meeting the pressures doctors are reporting.”

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