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RCGP: GPs are feeling ‘let down’ by NHS support package

The RCGP has said that the GP Forward View is failing to have a ‘positive impact’ on GPs at the frontline in its annual assessment, having originally given the support package its unwavering support.

Its main criticism was around NHS England’s promise to add 5,000 GPs to the workforce by 2020, and it said these plans needed an ‘urgent rethink’.

The College did find that NHS England was on track to deliver promised increases in funding to general practice, worth £2.4bn extra a year by 2021.

But College chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard concluded that, overall, GPs are feeling ‘let down’ by the support package.

On its release in April 2016, previous RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker called it the ‘most significant news for general practice since the 1960s’, and later stated it should be ‘everyone’s top priority’.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said today that the College still ‘stands by the GP Forward View’, and considers it a ‘lifeline’ for the profession.

But the report calls for a ‘re-think’ of the workforce pledges laid out in the document ‘in order to turn things around’, as the number of GPs has gone down since September last year.

Latest official figures show that the number of GPs has decreased by 542 since NHS England released its GP Forward View,

The College’s most recent survey, carried out in February 2017, found that half of RCGP members said it is ‘unlikely’ that NHS England’s plans for general practice will make a positive difference.

The report said: ‘This is a significant increase from the 39% who believed this in August 2016, only a few months after the launch.’

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said GPs were ‘desparate’ and the ‘pressures they are under are unbearable’.

Professor Stokes-Lampard added:  ‘Our members were promised impactful change by now, but unfortunately many are telling us that the difference they are seeing on the ground is not enough and they are feeling let down.

‘We are certainly not suggesting that NHS England, Health Education England and others have been resting on their laurels – we know they are committed to making things better in general practice.

‘But it is clear that there is a lot more to do, specifically around building our workforce.’

The other key concerns relate to rising indemnity costs, which the RCGP urges the Government to implement a long-term solution ‘as a matter of urgency’.

But the report praises NHS England for investing £17.2m into the practice resilience programme, which was more than promised in the first year of the plan.

The report also notes the positive feedback that has been received from the NHS GP health service, which was launched in January and had seen 500 GPs in the first three months.

This report follows an interim report released in January in which the RCGP ‘red-rated’ several aspects of NHS England’s document.

What is the GP Forward View?

NHS England released the GP Forward View in April last year.It promised a range of measures to help general practice.

Increased funding

It promised to invest an additional £2.4bn a year by 2020/21 into general practice – a 14% increase.

Scrapping the QOF

NHS England committed to scrapping the QOF – but, as Pulse reported today, the BMA is now pushing against this.

Cutting red tape

Including moving to five-yearly CQC inspections

Mental health support for GPs

Setting up a counselling service for GPs – which it has done.

Stopping hospital bullying

It called on hospitals to stop sending patients back to GPs when they failed to attend an appointment – however, it has failed on this so far.

Boosting GP numbers

It targeted 5,000 new GPs in the workforce by 2020

New practice staff

The package vowed to introduce 5,000 new non-GP staff, including pharmacists and physician associates, into the workforce by 2020.

Supporting vulnerable practice

A funding package worth £16m a year was announced, to help practices stay afloat.

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