GPs DEMAND a minimum of fifteen minutes to spend with each patient, rather than the current ten, which they rightly say is not enough time to properly examine a patient and diagnose what is wrong.
A list of demands has been drawn up by the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association (BMA), in an action plan released yesterday. Alongside more time with each patient, the BMA demands extra funding for GPs, more training places for medical students and a new recruitment drive.
The BMA said changes were needed to address the massive strain on general practice, with one in four patients now waiting at least a week to see a GP. Tory funding cuts, an acute shortage of newly qualified GPs, compounded by an increase in older GPs looking to retire has created a serious crisis.
The BMA report said that ‘significant action is needed to help a service facing increasing and unprecedented pressures’. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s General Practice Committee, said the ideas in the BMA action plan were a ‘practical and deliverable’ way to tackle a crisis in general practice.
Official figures show that, in total, 14.2 million patients waited a week or more to see or speak to a GP or didn’t get an appointment at all, the last time they tried in 2015 – a rise of 485,000 in one year. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been cut from funding to GP services since David Cameron became Prime Minister.
Total funds for general practice in England decreased by £245 million in real terms between 2009/10 and 2014/15, an analysis commissioned by the Labour Party from the House of Commons Library has shown. Heidi Alexander MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said that although ‘David Cameron talks about a seven-day NHS’ the ‘reality’ was that he is ‘failing to deliver a five-day NHS and patient care is suffering as a result’.
She said: ‘More than five years of David Cameron’s government has left the NHS in meltdown and GP services in crisis. Millions more patients are struggling to see their family doctor and cuts to funding mean this situation is likely to get worse, not better.’
Meanwhile the BMA released a second report yesterday which showed that two thirds of doctors are concerned about the privatisation of the NHS.
The report states that doctors are extremely concerned that private provision is ‘destabilising and fragmenting NHS services’. The report also found that doctors believe that the primary motivation for some private sector providers is profit, rather than providing the highest possible standard of care for patients.
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: ‘The NHS exists to provide the highest quality care for its patients. Anyone who doesn’t accept that, or gets in the way of achieving it, should not be allowed near it. That’s true for anyone who works in the health service, and it’s also true for any individual or company providing services within it.
‘Patient care simply cannot take second place to finances. In an era of declining funding, rising patient demand and staff shortages, we need a new way forward that addresses the challenges facing our NHS.’