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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Government does not understand general practice, says health committee chair

The Government is failing to understand the work of GPs, according to the chair of the House of Commons health committee.

Former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston, now the MP for Totnes, said the comments made by No 10 last week scapegoating a lack of GP opening for the A&E crisis has 'demonstrated a misunderstanding' of the tasks performed by GPs.

Writing in an opinion piece for Pulse, Dr Sarah Wollaston said it was ‘neither fair nor reasonable’ to blame GPs - amid the longest funding squeeze the NHS has ever seen.

Dr Wollaston said: It is neither fair nor reasonable to blame GPs for the crisis in A&E when clearly it is a complex whole-system issue with its roots in a workforce shortfall and the longest financial squeeze in the history of the NHS and social care...

'I think the comments from Number 10 demonstrate a misunderstanding of the pressures on primary care and that their work goes far beyond sitting face to face in surgeries. Visits, complex administration, reviewing results, liaising with colleagues and a host of other tasks.'

Going against the words of the leader of her own (Conservative) party, Dr Wollaston said general practice simply does npt have the workforce to open seven days a week.

Dr Wollaston said: 'During the Health Committee's inquiry into primary care it was clear that if you are asking GPs to staff co-located clinics in A&E as well as 8-8 routine services seven days a week, there simply isn't the workforce capacity to do this in all areas without undermining the capacity to staff urgent out of hours and weekday in hours services.'

Referring to the recent National Audit Office report which showed that seven-day access costs 50% more than routine hours, she added: 'When finances are tight, it is especially important to be realistic about what else could be delivered with the same money.'

She told Pulse that she will shortly be joining Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister Norman Lamb in an upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May, where they will propose a cross-party long term sustainability settlement on the NHS.

She said: 'We... need to make it clear that there are consequences if we do nothing. The best chance of success will come with a cross-party approach to providing sustainable long term funding.

'I think it is the right time in the political cycle for that to happen and we need urgent action given the scale of the ongoing demographic and demand challenge.'

Read Dr Wollaston's full piece here

Readers' comments (6)

  • We need to do what the rest of the western world does. Bring in insurance and a copayment system.

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    they do understand that it's easier to scapegoat a sector of society than to honestly deal with problems they created themselves.

    all the government has to do is to tell the electorate 'GPs earn more than the average wage and you never get to see them when you want to' and the public rabble will support the state in whatever policy they see fit to implement.

    the only solution is to make the public aware of the true cost of their individual health i.e. GPs working outside the NHS - at this point they will 'get' and 'understand' the great deal they are getting from doctors who choose to work in the NHS.

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  • Could they point out that Hunt is a "moral criminal" who has "disgraced himself repeatedly" in his treatment of doctors and strategy of "preying on the general public's fears and anxieties".

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  • The government fully understand what we do but do not value it. The public are being beta tested in Northern Ireland to see if they will tolerate private general practice . If there is little or no complaint GP's in England will be forced to resign.
    It will go something along the lines of " Right you lazy lot we'll take away 20-30 -40 whatever % of your income unless you do seven days a week "
    " We won't put up with that , we're off"
    " Oh boo hoo those greedy GP's have ruined the health service by their self centered actions now we need a private system. And by the way we're cancelling your fat cat pensions ."
    Job Done . That is how it will pan out.

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  • Vinci Ho

    'You don't want to be interested in politics but politics is extremely interested in you, mate'
    So ,as Donald Trump inaugurated after our PM announced the 12 key points of a hard Brexit in the same week,the two countries on both sides of the Atlantic have officially taken a sharp turn to the far right in politics. Protectionism will be the word in most political discourses. But if everyone is trying to protect oneself , something has to give as the winner(s) would like to laugh over the losers' dead bodies .
    Another word to rise on the horizon is called Nationalism . This appears to be a consequence of decades of globalisation. Ironically, Xi Jinping , the Chinese President has been selling this ideology very hard , boosting patriotism to ensure national stability despite historical level of corruption,since he came to power in 2012. And if you remember the elephant curve of world economy for 1988-2008, one big winner country was indeed ,China. No wonder , the new American president has picked China as the number one enemy as this is consistent with his anti-globalisation campaign. To Mr Xi, protectionism is just another well familiar terminology .
    Britain , on the contrary , is befriended with the Chinese government . Thanks to some previous lucrative investment deals including Hinkley Point nuclear power station , which had defied Auntie May's instinctive,politically correct scepticism but succumbing to financial reality. The enemy actual she chose in this game of Brexit is in fact , EU . According to the Chancellor , the British government is prepared to do 'anything' to arrive at a free trade deal with EU eventually, not in the sense of being cooperative, but confrontational instead ; for instance,EU can lose the brilliant British intelligence support up against Russia , face a tax haven Britain with even lower corporation tax. Needless to say about Trump's opinion on EU and NATO, one can also imagine how Putin will feel about this rather unreal circumstances .
    Of course , everything is down to money , money , nothing but money . Our chancellor estimated £60 billions more borrowing because of Brexit . I would say more, given the conditions required above to sustain a confrontation against EU and the cost of dancing alongside with Trump in HIS WAY( felt sorry that my favourite Frank Sinatra's song was used by the new American president in his inauguration celebrations). If one thought the controversial Trans-Atlantic trade investment and partnership (TTIP) was a bad idea , please wait for the well anticipated , forthcoming US-UK trade deal as Auntie May prepares her trip to Washington .
    In order to sustain the cost of Brexit and new deals with the rest of the world , austerity on domestic spending is inevitable. Problem is a carpet approach of austerity has reached its limit , stifling economic growth . The Bank of England has done all it could ,especially around the time after referendum to stabilise the economy. This has indeed led to this current 'virtual reality' of some economic growth seven months post referendum ,forcing Mark Carney to swallow his pride admitting the threat of Brexit was lessened. I would say , however , do not forget that we are still in EU! A neo-Keynesian economic strategy is truly necessary for infrastructure investment (something Trump is rightly concentrating ) to ensure genuine economic growth .
    So ,that only boils down to a selective austerity on public services , health and social care,education and benefits. Of course , Auntie could not have this on any front page in the media. Instead , she gave heart-warming speeches about how to protect the Just About Managing (JAMs) earning the sympathy of Professor Martin McKee in the latest , rather inflammatory, edition of BMJ : BMJ 2017;356:j213.
    The truth is austerity on health and social care services is now part of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan(STP)for Brexit and the new economic relationships with US , China and the rest of the world. Whether one would like to wake up to this reality is another matter .

    And for our dear Sarah(Wollaston), we like to see more from you ,presuming that you are standing firm for NHS and social care . Merely asking our GP colleagues to invite their MPs to come to their workplace or asking the prime minister to apologise, is NOT ENOUGH , my honourable lady. My suggestion is : like some of your party colleagues(as well as those in opposition),you can resign and trigger a by-election in your constituency. Run the election independently with a manifesto of saving NHS/GP/social care with more funding (raising tax , money from Brexit's promise or whatever), I am pretty sure you will be re-elected with a good margin and a brighter halo on top of your head,in contrast to the 'tragic' story of Zack Goldsmith. As long as you remain in your party , you are still in the 'mix' threatening you to grovel in front of your party . A Tory is a Tory , always a Tory?

    And no matter how hard Auntie May is trying to be Margaret Thatcher 2.0, the current circumstances are ,in some way , only similar to the eighties but not entirely the same. In exactly the same location, Lancaster House , Thatcher announced U.K. joining EU , May declared a truly hard Brexit.
    The anticipated, forthcoming US-UK trade deal has now become the first interesting chapter of this Trump-May relationship. This is now , that was then . Perhaps , we have a nefarious version of Reagan-Thatcher 2.0...... Who knows?

    So Auntie May (in your nine hundred quid leather pants and extravagant shoes) ,as you wanted us to open seven days a week ,our colleagues are all now very interested in your politics......

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    they also know about 'dead cats' and getting their media friends to apply smoke and mirrors ... the latest being the story that more than 1000 doctors have criminal records

    again a softening up exercise so that the public turn against us.

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