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Six in ten GPs ‘could resign’ over out-of-hours proposals

Exclusive Six out of ten GPs would consider resigning if the Government forces GPs to take back out-of-hours responsibility, a survey of hundreds of grassroots GPs reveals – and an overwhelming majority believe the GPC should make it clear such proposals are ‘unacceptable’ without waiting for further detail to emerge.

The snapshot poll of almost 450 GPs, seen by Pulse, was commissioned by Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC early last week following press reports trailing health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s speech, in which he suggested that the GP contract would have to be changed to hand back responsibility for patients’ out-of-hours care to general practice.

The survey is the first to examine how GPs could respond to Mr Hunt’s proposed changes, and the strongest indication yet of the depth of feeling among grassroots doctors. It follows a stormy debate at the LMCs conference on Friday, where delegates voted against a motion calling for out-of-hours responsibility to be transferred back to GPs but stopped short of formulating a response on behalf of the profession.

The chief executive of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC, Dr Peter Graves, told Pulse that the survey’s findings were particularly alarming because 67% of respondents said they were at the start or in the middle of their career.

The survey asked the question: ‘If the Government imposes a change on GP surgeries so that they have to stay open and have responsibility for out of hours, how would you respond?’

Of the 397 respondents who answered that question, 63% said they would resign or retire. A further 36% said they would ‘accept the change unwillingly’, while just seven GPs said they would welcome the change.

There was also an overwhelming majority of GPs – 85% – who said the GPC should make it clear that Mr Hunt’s proposals were ‘unacceptable to GPs’ even before any further detail is revealed.

Dr Jeremy Cox, a member of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC, said: ‘The survey response was quite remarkable. We have never seen anything like the torrent of responses.’

‘There was a huge amount of emotive stuff about how this made them feel…. Grassroots GPs just don’t want this to happen. They’ll walk.’

‘The young GPs said they would go to other specialties. It’s really upsetting. One young GP said she was at the end of the tether. This would finish her off – she’d leave.’

A separate survey conducted by East Sussex LMC found that 93% of the 484 GPs surveyed said it would support the GPC in opposing any proposition for GPs to take back any out-of-hours responsibilities.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘No one is suggesting that GPs go back to personally being on call evenings and weekends.

‘We support the principle of general practice having greater responsibility for the quality of out of hours care that their patients receive.

‘We want to work with the profession to agree how best to put these principles into practice, building on the steps that CCGs are already starting to take to improve out-of-hours services through their new commissioning responsibilities.’

Survey results

What is your GP status?

Partner – 364

Salaried – 42

Locum – 25

Trainee – 7


Where are you in your career?

At the start – 95

In the middle – 205

Towards the end – 147


If the Government imposes a change on GP surgeries so that they have to stay open longer and have responsibility for out of hours, how would you respond?

Resign or retire – 247

Accept the change unwillingly – 143

Welcome the change – 7


As there are no details given in Mr Hunt’s proposals at the moment, how do you thing the GPC should be responding right now?

Wait for more details before making a response – 67

Make it clear now that such proposals are unacceptable to GPs – 367


Source: Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC