This site is intended for health professionals only

Health secretary ‘beating’ general practice with ‘a big stick’, says BMA GP chair

Health secretary ‘beating’ general practice with ‘a big stick’, says BMA GP chair

Working with the Government on general practice issues is ‘a real challenge’, the BMA GP Committee chair has said, emphasising health secretary Sajid Javid’s short time in the role as a major factor.

Speaking at the Pulse PCN conference last week, Dr Richard Vautrey said the Mr Javid, who took up the role in June, is ‘very new to the job’ and has not yet ‘got a feel for what the issues are in general practice’.

Dr Vautrey added that Mr Javid had taken a ‘very old-fashioned’ approach of ‘beating a big stick to try and whip everyone to work harder and faster’.

His comments come a week after NHS England published its plan for improving access to GP practices, which set strict targets for practices, including plans to take ‘immediate’ action against the 20% of practices with the lowest face-to-face appointment levels.

The new access plan – which is attached to a £250m winter fund – also stated that that practices that do not reach pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments by November will not receive access to this funding.

Dr Vautrey described the Government’s current focus on face-to-face appointments as ‘bizarre’, suggesting it stood in conflict with the previous health secretary’s plan to prioritise remote GP appointments.

Speaking at the conference, which was held in Birmingham (20 October), he said: ‘I think we jointly need to be convincing Government, convincing NHS England that this is not the way to support general practice; this is not the way to improve access to patients; it is not the way to get better quality care.’

It comes after organisations linked NHSE’s ‘arbitrary’ plan to anti-GP campaigns in the media.

These include a Daily Mail campaign calling for GPs to see patients face to face as ‘default’, which has been said risks fuelling abuse and violence against practices further.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘If you’ve got media campaigns from powerful organisations like the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph with a particular demographic – which is older population, maybe more Conservative voting – and a Government that wants to stay in power and please its voters will try to do the populist thing without thinking about the ramifications.’

Responding to Mr Vautrey’s comments, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Patients should be able to see their GP promptly and in the way they choose. Our plan will improve access and drive up face to face appointments – it includes providing a further £250m to GPs in order to boost capacity.

‘We are also cutting bureaucracy and GP teams will be given targeted support which will take pressure off staff and free up their time so it can be spent with patients.

‘The number of full time equivalent doctors in general practice increased between March 2016 and March 2021 and, last year, a record-breaking number of doctors started training as GPs.’

Meanwhile, in a Downing Street press briefing this week, the Government said it does not plan to introduce new Covid restrictions, as Mr Javid claimed pressure on the NHS – including GPs – is ‘not unsustainable’.

Since the conference, the BMA has ramped up its dispute with the Government over the GP access plan, including a bid to ballot the profession on industrial action and proposals to disengage with the PCN DES.

For more details about upcoming Pulse PCN conferences, visit the website. The next conference will take place on 25 November in London



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Cameron Wilson 22 October, 2021 3:31 pm

Well Sajid, it was only a matter of time before the music stopped for game of Pass the Parcel enjoyed by your equally opportunitive predecessors! You needed us far more than we needed you! Suspect you personally won’t be too bothered about the outcome! Await the crocodile tears, you don’t fool us though, remember that! Add in social care to the mix all which is going pear shaped in the next few months and you certainly have played a blinder, all for a few headlines of your favourite rags! Whatever we get left with it will be a lot better without politicians who can’t think beyond the next promotion!

David Jarvis 22 October, 2021 3:58 pm

Can’t have timely and appropriate access to a non-existent GP.

Dr N 22 October, 2021 4:03 pm

Sajid does health and social care work;

‘Very (Sajid) pleased to support young entrepreneur, Holly Lewis, for the opening of her new bakery business in Bromsgrove. Good luck! ‘

Decorum Est 22 October, 2021 4:31 pm

‘Responding to Mr Vautrey’s comments, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson’ told lies, damned lies and burn in h… lies.

Vinci Ho 22 October, 2021 7:09 pm

Nobody likes to , and wants to see that we come to this situation . But,
(1) This is no longer just a matter of being ethical , but also about dignity and honour . I always believe that we are to treat rational beings as an ends rather than means with respect . But that is always a two-way traffic . If one wants to throw the respect out of the window , I am afraid that I am not prepared to uphold this principle of universal values.
If our next generation colleagues can still lift up their heads and be respected , this is the time to salvage what is about to be lost .
(2) Why do we come to this ? There can be many factors for history books and academics to judge eventually. But one thing is clear , there is no equal playing field as far as power is concerned. The government running the ‘system’ is always dictating the game . GPs are always overshadowed by our hospital consultant colleagues (to be fair , they have to be submissive as well ). The modifications of the Health and Social Care Bill by the last health secretary was simply consolidating even more power for the Secretary of State
(3) The despicable , duplicitous and disingenuous politics adopted by this government, was ironically complicated by feckless , incompetent and capricious policies everyday . Health services only represent one example. The pandemics ( which has not ended yet) has provided the opportunity to expose this egregious disparity .Ultimately in NHS , PCN is just a political expedient , well exploited by the government to cover themselves for this .
As I always say , I remain as an ‘engaging’ PCN-sceptic CD (schizophrenic, isn’t it?) . Nevertheless, ‘If this can be tolerated,then what can be called intolerable?’
(4) Any uncooperative movement comes with a price in history and inevitably involves a degree of scotched earth politics and even brinksmanship. Well , the latter should be well familiarised by our ‘patriotic’ prime minister .
If we decide to go down this route , it is not because we do not care for our patients. In fact , I would argue this is part of a mission to save the NHS to save our patients. Do you agree with the Health Secretary that the NHS is currently NOT unsustainable?
That is why it is still absolutely justified to carry on with the Covid booster and flu campaigns against the backdrop of another rapid upsurge of Covid-19 new cases deep into the months of winter . Anything else e.g. QOF and new PCN DES ‘targets’ are simply about ‘doing just enough’ , in my personal view .
(5) Can the government still do something sensible ? The answer is always a yes because it carries all the power and a political engine with several propaganda media ready for fuelling more populism .
For us , as I wrote yesterday, ‘ain’t matter if you were dovish or hawkish ; ain’t important how the history will judge us’ .This is the moment for our solidarity and unity

It is no longer about deserve, it is about what we believe. I believe this is the ‘right’ thing to do at the historic ‘right’ time …….

Patrufini Duffy 22 October, 2021 9:50 pm

GPs have seen 196.8m people so far in 2021. Javid, Hancock and Boris seen zero public audience, aggression and scrutiny. All cocooned and hiding. Kicking you in the back to “show resilience” and keep them from “them”.

C Ovid 23 October, 2021 4:20 pm

It all started with the prescriptive terms and scrutiny of the 2004 contract. Suddenly we were having our appointment systems scrutinised in QOF visits and what became a voluntary standard then became the requirement. Our ability to be flexible, adaptive and to accommodate our demand ( even if it meant some rushed “extras” at the end of the morning surgery), was frowned upon and then came the neo-liberal evaluation culture : impact, process, reflection.. all imported from systems and services with too much time on their hands. Don’t get me wrong, the audit quality of QOF has lifted care standards but has robbed us of flexibility and adaptability in a system where you can’t have quality AND volume for the crappy amount of funding. My pet insurance is more per month than my per-capita annual global sum payment for my care to my GP.
The best ever part of the crisis is: you ( the gov’t) took over micromanaging every fart and tea break in the surgery and with power comes responsibility. Tuff sh*t : it is all yours to fix now.
If only we had the moral courage to dump the GMS contract totally. Sadly we won’t because we are divided.

Bonglim Bong 23 October, 2021 9:14 pm


Bonglim Bong 23 October, 2021 9:15 pm

Any new contract needs to have the following:
– a minimum increase in payments in line with inflation each and every year unless agreement it reached with the practices
– no unilateral changes to terms of the contract.

David jenkins 26 October, 2021 7:15 pm

the “stick and carrot approach”

hit them with the stick until it breaks………….

then hit them with the carrot until it breaks too !