The BMA has written to chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling for a package of support for general practice, to address inflationary pressures and avert an ‘imminent crisis’.
The letter called for ‘an urgent solution’ to be agreed between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Treasury to prevent practices having to reduce their workforce or close altogether.
According to the letter, GP practices are ‘reporting that they are being forced to take the decisions not to expand their workforce to keep up with demand and are even actively reducing their workforce to cope with spiralling costs’.
‘This will inevitably impact on patient care at a time when it is already stretched to breaking point,’ it said.
‘Unlike other small businesses general practice cannot generate extra income by providing extra services, or by increasing the unit price charged, as NHS contracts do not allow this,’ the letter pointed out.
‘Many practices are now facing the reality that they have become financially unviable, and we are being told that there will be practice closures unless their financial position changes significantly.’
The BMA also said that currently negotiations are taking place in Scotland and Wales with devolved governments, but that in the absence of government in Northern Ireland, ‘it is imperative that they are also included in any agreement through Treasury’.
The letter also mentions a motion passed at the LMC UK Conference last month, which instructed the GPC to negotiate ‘an urgent package of measures for all practices.’
Co-signatories Dr Kieran Sharrock, acting GPC England chair, and Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Alan Stout asked the chancellor to meet to discuss the package.
According to the RCGP, over a quarter of GPs and other staff have said their practice is at risk of closing with workload pressure as the top reason.
Last year, the BMA said that 22 practices were accessing support from a regional crisis team designed to support GP practices in developing recovery plans.
Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Manchester found that practice closures are linked with reduced patient satisfaction with services at the surviving practices, which end up having more patients, as well as proportionally less GPs and funding.