‘Frightening’ Government is so ignorant of needs of GPs as new measures announced – BMA chair

A new package of measures for general practice announced by the Government has been criticised, with claims the “lack of action” will force many GPs to “hang up their stethoscopes”.

GPs said the multimillion-pound package – aimed at improving access to GPs – does not go far enough and hit out at conditions which will leave practices which fail to provide an “appropriate” level of face-to-face appointments ineligible for the new funding.

Doctors have also accused the Government of being “ignorant” to the scale of the crisis facing the NHS, including staff shortages, high patient waiting times and abuse towards healthcare professionals.

The measures will see GPs freed from some red tape and other parts of the NHS will be called upon to help with some care – such as other healthcare workers being given new powers to provide patients with fit to work notes or DVLA checks.

NHS England said the measures, including a £250 million winter access fund, will enable GP practices to improve availability and increase the number of face-to-face appointments and same-day care.

But British Medical Association GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey (pictured) said: “It’s truly frightening that we have a Government so ignorant to the needs of such a core part of the NHS.

“GPs want to improve the care we offer to our patients, but today’s offer will not enable us to do that as we had hoped.

“GPs across England will be truly horrified that this is being presented as a lifeline to general practice, when in reality it could sink the ship all together.

“There can be no doubt that this lack of action at such a critical time will force many GPs to hang up their stethoscopes and leave the profession for the last time.”

He added: “It is also disappointing to see that there is no end in sight to the preoccupation with face-to-face appointments; we need a more intelligent conversation about the variety of appointments and care that are available to patients to meet their needs.”

Health workers also said a hybrid approach to appointments will give more time for doctors to see more patients.

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has called on the Government to fulfil its manifesto pledge of an additional 6,000 GPs and 26,000 other primary care professionals in the workforce by 2024.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, said: “The RCGP has always been very clear that a blend of remote and face-to-face consultations are necessary, and that post-pandemic this should be a shared decision between GP and patient.

“We know some patients prefer to see their GP face to face – but good care can and is being delivered remotely and some patients prefer it.”

On the Government’s plan to reduce the administrative burden on GPs by expanding who can provide medical evidence and DVLA checks, the BMA said the process will take a long time to implement and do little to tackle current urgent issues such as lack of time for appointments.

The RCGP did welcome the change but added it will not reduce the bureaucracy that GPs face enough, and a system-wide change is needed to allow workers to have more time with patients and less “box ticking”.

Further plans for protection against abuse for healthcare workers were also included, however GPs have demanded more action and called on the Secretary of State to publicly support the profession to tackle the “torrent of abuse” workers receive daily.

The Government package also includes increased scrutiny of GP practices and offers a text-messaging service to rate performance, but this has been rejected by the RCGP as demoralising.

Prof Marshall said: “There are already ways for patients to feed back on their experience – the introduction of more measures will further demoralise a profession that is already on its knees, and demonise practices that are struggling.”

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