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Six in ten GPs say morale has deteriorated since publication of GP Forward View

Exclusive More than 60% of GPs in England say their morale has deteriorated since NHS England announced its major package of support for general practice earlier this year, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey of more than 1,000 GPs also saw 70% of GPs reporting their workload has increased since the publication of the GP Forward View in April, despite specific immediate measures to ensure hospitals stop dumping work on primary care.

The GP Forward View had committed a £500m ‘turnaround’ package for general practice, designed to bolster the GP workforce and reduce workload, as well as a promise to increase the funding for general practice by £2.4 billion by 2020.

But GP respondents reported that the measures announced had made no difference to their working lives, but other factors – such as ongoing problems with Capita, which is providing primary care support, and increases in CQC fees – had decreased morale and hit practice finances.

The GPC said it was ‘no surprise’ that GP morale was still at ‘rock bottom’.

The same survey found that almost half of GP partners are willing to give up their NHS contracts and go private unless the state of general practice improves.

The survey of 1,046 GPs in England found:

  • 61% said their morale had got worse, compared with 5% who said it had got better;
  • 70% said their workload had got worse, compared with 2% who said it had got better;
  • 47% said their practice finances had got worse, compared with 2.5% who said it had got better; and
  • 47% said their staff numbers had got worse, compared with 3.5% who said it had got better.

The GP Forward View had offered a number of immediate measures to improve the situation in general practice including £16m this year to help vulnerable practices, funding to pay for rises in indemnity this year, a £30m programme to spread innovative ideas to reduce workload and a change in the NHS standard contract for hospitals to prevent them asking GPs to re-refer patients who miss appointments.

But GPs answering the survey said they had seen little benefit so far.

Dr Grant Ingrams, a GP in Glenfield, Leicester and ex-chair of the IT subcommittee of the GPC, said: ‘The GPFV was launched with fanfares as being the start of saving general practice. However, the feeling on the ground is that workload still continues to soar upwards and the ability to recruit and retain staff continues to plummet. I have yet to see any positive development which is benefitting my practice.

‘We are keep being told that that things will get better, but what is the use of jam tomorrow, when we have starved to death today.’

Dr Naomi Beer, a GP partner in east London who has led the Save our Surgeries campaign against MPIG cuts, said the ‘overall picture is that it is harder to get income than before’.

However, she added that the GPFV’s plan to increase the support staff has helped: ‘Expansion of the other clinical admin and admin staff has been essential – otherwise we would have already have gone under.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ‘It’s no surprise that GPs morale is still at rock bottom. We’ve been looking in detail about this in our soon to be published major GPC survey and it’s a reflection of the continuing crisis resulting from years of underinvestment in to general practice and an on-going GP recruitment and retention problems.

‘While the GPFV made many promises few practices have yet to see this turn in to tangible reality. GPC nationally and LMCs locally are working hard to hold NHS England, Health Education England and CCGs accountable to their commitments which need to be delivered as soon as practically possible.’

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