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DH accused of 'complacency' over rising GP pressures by MPs

NHS England and the Department of Health have been ‘complacent’ about supporting general practice to manage increasingly complex health issues and demanding patients, an influential parliamentary committee has found.

The influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee’s ’Access to General Practice in England report, released today, says that the Government have ’failed to ensure staffing in general practice has kept pace with growing demand’. 

It comes as the Government is facing pressure from the BMA and the profession over its seven-day access plans, and its attempts to introduce 5,000 new GPs to the system by 2020.

It also highlights how a lack of workforce data undermined workforce development with NHS officials unable to make well-informed decisions about where to spend limited resources.

The committee calls on NHS England to explain how it will retain experienced GPs and attract those who have left early to return to general practice.

The GPC has said that the report vindicates ‘repeated warnings’  that workload had reached unsustainable levels without adequate investment in the general practice workforce to deliver it.

The report, which follows a wide-ranging inquiry into general practice, emphasises:

  • the need to clearly set out how the NHS will to more to recruit and retain GPs and to bring back those who may have left for a career breaks or due to unsustainable pressures.
  • the need to evidence the effectiveness of schemes to recruit to under doctored areas, after Pulse revealed more than 100 GP trainees were in line for £20k golden hellos for training in these areas.
  • the problems with a lack of data on workforce, which mean that the ’Department and NHS England cannot be making well-informed decisions on how to improve access to general practice or where to direct their limited resources.’

It concluded: ‘In recent years the Department of Health and NHS England have failed to ensure that staffing in general practice has kept pace with growing demand.

‘They appear to have been complacent about general practice’s ability to cope with the increase in demand caused by rising public expectations and the needs of an ageing population, many of whom have multiple health conditions.’

But it did acknowledge action taken to address the GP workforce crisis, including NHS England’s join ten-point plan for GP workforce, and health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s announcement last year of a ‘new deal’ for general practice - which was heavily criticised by the profession.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said: ’For too long staffing levels have failed to keep pace with the growth in demand and too little has been done to close the gap.

’Experienced GPs are quitting while training places go unfilled… These are serious problems requiring serious solutions. Government accepts action is necessary but we must have confidence this action will result in the best possible outcome for taxpayers.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This important independent report vindicates the BMA’s repeated warnings about the depth of the crisis confronting general practice.’

He adds: ‘As the report indicates, this alarming reality is a direct result of successive governments failing to build a GP workforce that can provide high quality care to a changing population with different needs, and a health system where large swathes of care is being moved out of hospitals into the community without the necessary funding being made available to meet this need.

Dr Nagpaul added that the GPC was pushing for an urgent rescue package for general practice.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘As this report acknowledges, we are taking wide-ranging action to improve GP access as part of our commitment to a safer, seven day a week NHS.’

Pensions changes leading to early retirement?

pensions, money - online

pensions, money - online

Source: shutterstock

The (PAC)’s review into the NHS workforce had heard from NHS England’s director of commissioning, who said that older GPs are looking at ’alternative options’ because of changes to the tax treatment of pensions pots.

Rosamond Roughton said that NHS England has commissioned a review into why older GPs are leaving the profession as part of evidence to the committee.

She said that the review is to be concluded imminently, and said that it would be made public.

Read more here


Readers' comments (28)

  • We are now passed the point of any hope of recovery because there are not enough trainers . Even if anyone wanted to be trained . Which they won't.

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  • I confess i am lost. If there are more GPs who are going to be paid less, because the pot of money is exactly the same for 60000 or 70000 GPs, why should the DOH care at all?
    If I were HS/DOH, I would do nothing. No matter how little GPs are paid compared to similar professions, there will always be enough altruistic, vocational GPs left.
    Look, in spite of the mayhem in GP land, the RB says there are more GPs.
    Crisis, there is no crisis. GPs are just making this up.

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  • We are partly to blame for the "complacency". I remember picking up a copy of a GP rag 15 years ago when I started and there was talk of an imminent disaster.

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  • what an huge surprise this report... totaly unpredictable.
    the vocational GP is a dying breed... restricted working hours, no paperwork, finish when they want.. the new generation demands go on & on.In the words of that immortal character played by Bill Fraser in Dad's Army "we're all doomed!!"

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  • I would not tollerate this rubbish and I have not. I left medicine and am much happier as a result.
    We do not owe it to anyone to work for free.
    People that do make it hard for.others who do not want to be abused in this way as it is abuse.
    As such doctors.who do so are effectively collaberating in the continued abuse of other doctors.

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  • Can anyone please give some general advice about non GP careers suitable for a wanna be ex-GP. I'm totally burned out, depressed and want out but am not sure what to do ..I'm 45, can't leave the uk because of family. Any ideas?... please avoid the temptation to take the Mickey

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  • Vinci Ho

    I would say if financially affordable , take the option of 'go back to school' to study something you really like first , for a year , say.
    (My own thinking is always going to study quantum physic if I walk away one day from here!)

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  • I retired early 2 years ago due to the unmanageable workload, falling income, the hassle of appraisal, ability to meet patient's expectations, pressure to use a C&B system which wasn't fit for purpose & the increasing tendency for secondary care to refuse to take responsibilty for following up results of tests which they had initiated and lots more besides. Colleagues tell me it has got worse since I left. Retiring didn't feel like the positive decision it should have been at the end of a fulfilling career; there simply seemed no other option. I cannot imagine what the government could offer to attract me back.

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  • @3.42pm. I advise you spend a bit of money to have some career coaching through BMA. 1 session put me on track to working flexibly and independently. I may be poorer in cash terms but I can now take my kids to school and pick up as well as spend holidays with them, have a varied career ( doing tribunal work, coaching and appraisals).
    Ps. Don't shoot the appraiser. If they have to be done they should be useful to the appraiser and I pride myself on using my coaching skills to help the doctors think about their career and development.

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  • That's useful to the sppraisee not appraiser ( predictive text error not Freudian)

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