The Government must think carefully about how it incentivises practices to participate in its new voluntary seven-day GP service contract, or risk exacerbating the recruitment crisis in under doctored areas, the chair of the Commons Health Committee has said.
At a fringe session at the Conservative Party Conference 2015, Dr Sarah Wollaston – MP for Totnes and a GP herself – said the Government’s ambition to drive seven-day working could disadvantage practices that are unable to federate, leading to GPs abandoning small practices altogether.
The new contract, which was announced by David Cameron on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, will be open practices or groups with a list size of more than 30,000 patients.
But Dr Wollaston said: ‘The question would be how is that incentivised?
‘It it’s incentivised in a way that hugely disadvantages practices that can’t federate and deliver then you may have an unintended consequence of driving GPs away from those practices towards the large federated practices, and then what could happen is those under-doctored areas is fundamental because we have a shortage of GPs.’
Dr Wollaston urged clarity from the Government, for doctors and patients, as she also said that expectations of what care would be available on weekends were being stoked unrealistically.
She added: ‘What we probably can’t deliver, if we’re diverting money from more important priorities, is a convenient seven day service. And particularly [in practices] where there aren’t enough staff to practically be able to deliver a seven-day service in the way that sometimes is politically promised.’
She was supported in this by BMA chair Dr Mark Porter who said the Government was looking at urgent care seven days, but said ‘in papers and speeches… people are being told that the NHS will run on a Sunday as it runs on a Tuesday’.
He also raised concerns over the Government’s removal of public health budgets, which will require £200m in cuts this year alone.
Dr Wollaston said that these cuts ‘would affect frontline services.’
At the same event Dr Wollaston accused the Government of double standards over their insistence that NHS organisations publish increasing amounts of data, but they refuse to publish publicly funded evidence reviews until it was ‘politically convenient.’
She told delegates: ‘The health select committee is about to hold an enquiry into the childhood obesity strategy… So we’ve asked the government to publish Public Health England’s evidence review.
‘And we’ve been told that it won’t be published, and I think that’s a great shame.’
She added: ‘I see no reasonable justification for non-publication, we don’t now accept that with pharma and we shouldn’t expect it from Government.’