THE TORY government has launched a vicious war against GPs.
778 GP surgeries have closed in the last eight years alone, forcing patients to move to a different doctor. The remaining GPs have had to take on larger and larger catchment areas with thousands more patients to care for.
The average patient list size per practice in 2013 was 6,914 – a figure that has now soared to 8,757.
There is a major GP staffing crisis. A quarter of surgeries are losing up to 40 per cent of staff a year. The pressure at surgeries is so intense that staff are leaving and constantly having to be replaced. Older GPs have had enough. While 401 took early retirement in 2007-08, that number had soared to 1,358 in 2020-21.
The Royal College of GPs (RCGPs) has warned that the proportion of the NHS budget spent on GPs must be doubled or even more surgeries will go under. Currently, around £19bn of the NHS’ £212bn budget goes to GPs.
The government on Thursday announced an ‘emergency budget’ increase for GPs of a mere £250m. This is a drop in the ocean of what is required. It is like bailing out a sinking ship with a teaspoon – and their teaspoon of extra funding comes with an ultimatum! A special task force has been set up to force GPs to do more face-to-face consultations – or face the consequences.
Commissioners have been told to immediately begin identifying the 20 per cent of practices in their area that are performing worst in terms of delivering face-to-face appointments in what has been dubbed a ‘naming and shaming’ exercise. Practices identified by the hit squads as ‘not carrying out enough face-to-face consultations with patients’ will be forced to partner with other practices or face contractual action from the commissioners.
GPs are not opposed to face-to-face consultations with patients, in fact, this is what they want more than anything. However, after being stripped of funding and staff while being forced to take on such big catchment areas, they have been put in an impossible situation. They are being made the scapegoats for the NHS crisis that the government itself has created.
This is the oldest trick in the book – divert blame and divide and rule – and they have a mouthpiece for their attack.
Back in May (2021) the Daily Mail announced it had ‘launched a new campaign to demand a shift in thinking’ under the headline: ‘Let us all see our GPs face-to-face again: Last November The Mail on Sunday first highlighted the fears of patients only allowed phone or video calls with their doctor … by February nothing had changed – nor has it now.’
Patients have been urged to demand face-to-face consultations with their GP. GPs are furious that they have been made the scapegoats for the Tories’ savage cuts to the NHS.
Tory Health Secretary Sajid Javid chickened out of the RCGPs’ annual conference yesterday after fearing the backlash he would face. SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) committee member Dr Zubaida Haque pointed out: ‘The unbelievable irony of Sajid Javid, Health Secretary (who has been carrying out a smear campaign against GPs in the media) FAILING to turn up for his first “face-to-face” appointment with GPs.’
GPs, who were frontline in the war against the virus during lockdown and instrumental in the vaccination programme, are being scapegoated, blamed, harassed and vilified for a crisis of the government’s making.
The Tory government, along with the capitalist press, are attempting to drive a wedge between patients in their communities and their own GPs in a pernicious campaign to divert blame for the crisis. This attempt has failed and now the real culprits for the GP crisis – the Tory government – must be dealt with.
The working class will not be divided. In fact, the entire country stands full square with NHS workers and GPs.
The way forward is clear … GPs are under attack and they must be defended. Every worker in this country relies on their local GP surgery, so every worker in this country must be organised through their unions to take united action.
The Daily Telegraph has, in this extraordinary crisis, found itself pondering the power of the truck drivers over the power of the bankers, concluding that whilst the bankers have the money, the truck drivers actually have the power to shut the country down.
The full strength of the working class must be wielded to defend the GPs. This means an all-out general strike to kick this government out.
A workers government will immediately set about reopening all closed GP surgeries, and ensuring that funding for GPs is doubled and trebled so that they can bring in all the staff that they need to conduct face-to-face consultations.
This is the only way forward – to a workers’ government and socialism!