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How can Professor Steve Field say we've failed as a profession?

Dr Kailash Chand

Professor Steve Field’s comments ‘General practice has ‘failed as a profession’ left me both angry and saddened. Angry, because he wrongly attributes failings of a minority of practices to malign the entire profession, and saddened because he seems so far removed from understanding the way GPs are working their socks off, to meet rising demands with diminishing resources in the primary care.

He says ’how uncaring and poor some of the practices have been’. To make such sweeping inflammatory statements, and to the Daily Mail of all places is, to say the least is very unhelpful when the profession is going through such a ‘crisis’. Failing practices are running into difficulty primarily due to recruitment and retention crisis, and that is not the fault of the profession. I don’t know what his motives are for denigrating the profession at such a crucial time, I assume, that either he is become so much part of the official machinery that he forgets he once was chair and president of the RCGP. Maybe he is justifying in advance the extortion of GP inspection fees which is being proposed.

Professor Steve Field needs a reality check

Professor Steve Field - do you realise that general practice has become an under-resourced, over-stretched shell of its former self, struggling to keep pace with patient demand despite the efforts of staff? This mismatch between reality and politicians’ promises is a real threat to patient services in the years ahead. That is what you should be highlighting, rather than saying ’you are ashamed of being a GP’.

There are now 7,962 GP practices in England – one in 20 has disappeared since 2010. The rate of loss of local surgeries has speeded up – 79 closed and 55 opened in 2010 but in 2013, 126 closed and only 13 opened. There has been a five-fold rise in the number of GP surgeries approaching senior NHS managers for advice about shutting their doors or merging with nearby practices. There is a limit to what GPs can do when patient demand is going up and resources are going down. With an ageing population that needs more complicated care and longer appointments, this is only going to get worse. Professor Steve Field needs to understand that what GP services need is a long-term, stable plan that gets them back on an even keel. This means better funding and a sensible recruitment plan, not political statements to please his bosses.

We GPs went into medicine to make people better. We don’t want to see the standard of care we provide eroded by ill-thought-out political objectives, without any proof. General practice is the bedrock of many NHS services and the gatekeeper to the rest. You can either provide the meaningful leadership, confront the realities facing GP practices and make plans now to meet growing challenges, or you can bury your head in the sand and let this key part of the NHS slide into permanent decline with your ill thought remarks.

Dr Kailash Chand OBE is the deputy chair of the BMA, and a retired GP. He writes in a personal capacity.

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Spot on analysis of the state of general practice. So many GPs will be angry at having their medical specialty branded a failure. Particularly by someone who was supposed to be helping to improve it.

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  • Donald Trump style of politics. Very un-British.

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  • Professor Steve Field is absolutely right and frank.General Practice has not only failed but has been used as a political punch bag and has lost its respect even in the eyes and minds of its most ardent support

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  • This man is trying to protect his job and organisation.
    Sweet talking the policitians on his role and seeking an OBE in the queens new year honours.

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  • Prof Field is right for the wrong reasons.
    Poorly performing GPs are poorly funded.
    It is an anomaly in GP land that some GP practices earn 5X per patient compared to another
    GP practice, yet are compared the same by Prof Fields.
    This level of discrimination, unfairness and injustice by the NHS and CQC must end.
    GP land must end in its current form.
    If it rises again, it MUST be more fair in allocation of funding.
    GP land has failed.
    It can only deal with 90% of all consults on 6% of the NHS budget [in NI]
    It should do better. It has failed.
    Wind it up.

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  • GP is very successful considering demand and funding. It however failed for selling itself short for so long. I was ashamed of being a GP before I started locuming. Not anymore .

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  • We gave up being resposible for out of hours damaged that profession and ruined our reputation. We gave up a monopoly on patient care. Turned us from professional to a trade, along with part time working. We are wide open to attack.

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  • How can she slap?

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  • A private profit making medical system could not operate effectively alongside an efficient service which is free at the point of delivery . Logic dictates that it must be destroyed or made ineffective. Dr Field is doing a damn good job of bringing this about .

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