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Why are GPs angry? They are tired of broken promises

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If our great leaders did not know it before, they know it now. GPs are angry.

It must have been an eye-opener to both the health secretary and the chief executive of the NHS to be faced with a baying crowd at the usually rather sedate RCGP conference.

Both Jeremy Hunt and Simon Stevens were heckled and faced tough questioning from the floor.

‘We are exhausted, drowning, and quite frankly furious with you,’ Mr Hunt was told.

I was asked recently by a senior official at NHS England what it is that annoys GPs. I paused, rolled my eyes and told him there is a very long list.

I said it was hardly surprising the profession was angry since they are being asked to cope with more work and fewer resources, not to mention an increasingly ridiculous number of hoops and paper-shifting exercises simply to get paid.

But I forgot to mention one thing. GPs are angry because they are sick and tired of being promised one thing and then getting almost the polar opposite.

GPs were told this year’s contract would ‘free up more time to devote to patients’. Look how that has turned out.

CCGs were meant to be GP-led organisations, but a recent survey found 40% of the profession felt their views were not listened to.

The CQC’s Professor Steve Field assured GPs his new inspection regime would not seek ‘perfection’, but the chief inspector may want to glance at this.

Which brings me to the promise that practices would receive £5 per patient to help further support the vulnerable older patients identified under the unplanned admissions DES.

It was a good idea. As Mr Hunt told Pulse in February: ‘The extra £5 [per patient funding] reflects the fact that we know that to deliver better care we need more capacity in the system.’

NHS England said the £250m package of funding was to come directly from CCG hospital budgets and could be used for GP services, or community services if that was more appropriate.

Many GPs welcomed the – albeit modest – move to redirect some of the ever-expanding secondary care budget.

But our investigation shows this money has not materialised in many areas. A third of CCGs have yet to allocate any funding – and some are actually using it to plug gaps in secondary care.

Despite this, the health secretary was happy to walk on stage at the RCGP conference and say that he had released £250m ‘alongside the GP contract’ to help boost proactive care for the most vulnerable elderly.

It is this kind of empty promise that is undermining the trust GPs have in the NHS.

So, Mr Hunt, I challenge you to be true to your word. Give the funding to support GPs that you promised this year and do it soon.

The Department of Health was able to find £500m last year to bail A&E departments out of a crisis, so surely half that amount is not a huge ask? NHS England would jump to attention if ordered by the health secretary to ensure all GP practices receive the additional money.

And while you are at it, make it recurrent funding, so practices can their plan services more than 12 months in advance.

Otherwise, you may want to think about the wisdom of turning up to next year’s RCGP conference.

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Readers' comments (13)

  • "I was asked recently by a senior official at NHS England what it is that annoys GPs"

    The fact that he didn't know, and resorted to asking a newspaper editor rather than GPC etc, speaks volumes about the ivory tower condescension and isolation of NHS England

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  • Vinci Ho

    The question from this senior official of NHSE was politically correct , diplomatic. Do you think he already knew the answer ? Of course, just wanted to see which side a newspaper editor was on. What do you call this? Hypocrisy and is dangerously flawed.

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  • Excellent summary of the reasons GPs are angry; just misses one other vital point - we do want to care for our patients and do the best we can for them medically, but are distracted and prevented from doing our job by pointless government initiatives and lack of resources.
    Contrary to what DH and DM think, NO-ONE else can do the job of a GP - they may do little bits and the easy parts, but only a GP can provide the holistic medical care and risk management for less than you pay to insure your hamster each year; stop trying to reinvent the wheel, let GPs get back to what we do best.

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  • I am saddened to admit that I no longer tell people that I am a GP as I am fed up and exhausted at being vilified as greedy, lazy, incompetent etc etc etc. this is one of the many reasons I am angry and counting down to retirement. As a GP trainer I feel extremely sad for all the enthusiastic young trainees coming through, who will end up beaten and defeated like us "oldies".
    Keep up the good work Nigel..........though I feel we have now gone past the point of no return......

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  • Dr David Barrett

    The future doesn't feel bright. I'm thinking short term so will book for the RCGP and see who I can heckle again. Then there's Twitter, I could vent that way, on PULSE website anonymously ... Oh..wait a minute don't we pay the BMA and elect the GPC to do this stuff.

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  • Because

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  • Excellent Blog. As a far finer speaker than me said we are furious not just angry. The expression of never pushing a loyal (wo)man until they no longer care really does apply here. General Practice has loyally kept the NHS going to be rewarded time and again with unfunded work and blatant pay cuts, open political hostility, media crucifixion, denigration undermining and misrepresentation. Anger doesn't do our feelings justice.

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  • what riles me is the absolute incompetence and wasteful lunacy and utter stupidity emanating from the National Health Sabotage Executive....profoundly unfit for purpose out of touch with reality and a miserable failure who rarely does any better than undermine and damage primary care.
    well done..your perverted mad policies are well on their way to destroying good primary care..are you happy now????

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  • It's not quite over yet and we do really need ALL of us to keep pushing the point- We have left it to our leaders and they have previously been inadequate in uniting GPs across the country behind a single purpose. That is changing as mere survival has become the goal. To some extent it was because they were too busy trying to represent all the vested interests and different factions within General Practice. Our Independence is our strength but it also means that we have been slow to unite to support each other and the higher goal. Going for pensions rather than attacking the H and SC Act 2012 was a huge mistake for which the profession as a whole must take responsibility but we can't go back there. We have to go from where we are and Nigel Praites is right to continue to keep the momentum of fighting for GP centrality to the future of the NHS. We all must- wherever and whenever we can. I know we are tired and many, understandably, are at the point where they have stopped caring but we MUST summon what we have left within us, give again and be the ones who fight and ensure that General Practice remains. I still believe there is hope for our future.

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  • How about this? A 25% reduction in pay and a 50% rise in workload in 10 years, in an apparently Independent Contract!!! While NHS managers get 3-5% increases and bonuses year on year. As for MPs, they have to 11% at least. Only the extremely altruistic and only the ones with their hands tied behind their back due to circumstances stay. The rest will leave, why would anybody stay? Sadly, the GPC keeps telling us the problems without outlining any solutions.

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