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GP leader warns of catastrophic workforce timebomb

BMA says government’s 7-day service plans are ‘unrealistic and illogical’

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 25 June 2015

General practice is facing a “workforce timebomb” that requires urgent government action to help “lift the profession off its knees”, according to GP leaders.

In his keynote speech yesterday to the BMA’s annual representatives meeting held in Liverpool, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, also warned against the government’s “folly” of introducing routine seven-day services when existing services were over-burdened.

Dr Nagpaul said it was clear that demand for GP services had outstripped capacity and there were not enough GPs, appointments, staff or space to meet growing demand, which was set to increase further with a growing older population, and more care moving out of hospital.

“The BMA's recent biggest ever survey of 15,000 GPs signals a catastrophic workforce timebomb ready to explode, with one in three GPs intending to retire in the next five years, and one in five GP trainees intending to leave the NHS to work abroad,” he told delegates.  

“It would be utter folly to dismiss this as shroudwaving – not least because the government’s pledge for 5,000 more GPs during this parliament will be pointless if we lose 10,000 GPs in the same breath.

“The only deal fit for general practice is one that will lift the profession off its knees from the weight of unsustainable workload, not keel it over with more burdens, a deal [which] gives us increased core resources to do our jobs properly with enough time with patients to provide safe quality care, with more nurses, pharmacists, and healthcare staff to support us now not promises of targets in 2020.

"A deal that doesn’t just give funding to under-doctored areas when the truth is the entire UK is under-doctored when it comes to GPs. A deal that rids us of the suffocating effect of disproportionate CQC inspections taking doctors and staff away from patient care. A deal that manages demand on a fragile GP service, and doesn’t stoke it.”

GPs were often unfairly portrayed as only working 9-5 when the reality was that they were working “flat out dawn to dusk, starting earlier and finishing later than most routine NHS services”, he said.

“At a time when government says we’re 5,000 GPs short, when the Centre for Workload intelligence says we haven’t the GPs to sustain current demands, it’s simply unrealistic and illogical to expect GP surgeries nationally to be open routinely seven days a week which will damage quality by spreading an inadequate GP workforce so thinly, and replace continuity of care with impersonal shift-work, and take GPs away from caring for older vulnerable patents.”

Dr Nagpaul called on the government to invest in a renaissance in general practice, so that it became what he called a “regeneration zone with a bright future, with a manageable and rewarding workload where GPs have the time and tools to reconnect with the joy of being GPs providing holistic care to patients”.

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