‘GP services at breaking point’ – warns BMA

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Dr CHAAND NAGPAUL, BMA GP Committee chair (2nd from right) at a march in Tower Hamlets last June against the closure of GP surgeries
Dr CHAAND NAGPAUL, BMA GP Committee chair (2nd from right) at a march in Tower Hamlets last June against the closure of GP surgeries

‘GP SERVICES are already at breaking point,’ British Medical Association (BMA) GP Committee chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, warned yesterday, demanding that PM Cameron ‘get real’ and ditch his ‘surreal obsession’ with opening GP surgeries seven days a week.

Tory pledges to recruit 5,000 GPs in England will ‘fail dismally’, as doctors are fleeing the profession in droves, said Dr Nagpaul.

Proposing a motion at the Local Medical Committee (LMC) conference in London, Nagpaul said: ‘It is completely irresponsible to promise the public a sudden and drastic expansion in what GPs can do when they are struggling to provide even basic care during current working hours.

‘Given it takes eight to ten years to train a GP, it is not possible for thousands of GPs to instantly arrive in the workforce.

‘The government’s recent pledge on seven day services was empty headline grabbing. We need politicians to step back from the politicisation of the NHS and work with doctors, as well as patients, to find long term, practical solutions to the challenges we currently face.’

There were 40 million more GP appointments annually than five years ago, yet the proportion of NHS funds spent in general practice was falling, he said.

He pointed to a survey of 15,000 GPs which showed one in three intending to retire and one in five planning to move abroad in the next five years, many citing overwhelming workloads as their reason.

‘It’s absolutely pointless promising 5,000 extra GPs within this Parliament if we lose 10,000 GPs retiring in the same period,’ Dr Nagpaul said, adding that it is ‘utter folly’ to dismiss this as GP ‘scaremongering’.

The conference also called for an end to the out-of-area GP registration scheme which, it warned, has been a disaster and has fragmented patient care.

The out-of-area registration scheme allows GP practices to register new patients who live outside the practice area, without any obligation to provide home visits or out-of-hours services when the patient is unable to attend their registered practice. 

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee deputy chair, said: ‘We remain concerned that this scheme fragments patient care which could risk their safety, and no effective arrangements have been put in place for patients to be able to access local GP services if ill at home under the out of area scheme.

‘We have repeatedly raised concerns with NHS England that they have failed to provide a robust home visiting service for out-of-area patients as GPs from across England have told the BMA that these arrangements are either not clear, or are not working in the way in which they were intended.’