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‘New deal’ threatens existence of general practice, BMA declares



Jeremy Hunt’s new deal puts at risk patient safety and threatens the very existence of general practice in the UK, the representative body of the BMA has unanimously declared.

At this week’s Annual Representatives Meeting in Liverpool, representatives of every medical profession voiced their disappointment in Friday’s pledge to force seven-day working on general practice in exchange for 5,000 more GPs and support for struggling practices.

In an urgent ‘rider’ to a motion on political interference in the NHS, representatives urged the Government to look instead at rescuing the current GP service, addressing years of underinvestment.

They called on ministers to focus on investing in existing GP out of hours, as seven-day working pilots found routine care at weekends was ‘unpopular with patients’.

The original motion said that policies should be ‘made in the light of best evidence’ and when ‘evidenced to be in the best interests of the patients’.

However, the rider – proposed by Dr Amy Small, a GP in Lothian, Scotland – stated: ‘That this meeting is disappointed to note that the secretary of state’s announcement of a new deal for general practice fails these tests, putting at risk patient safety, continuity of care and the very existence of general practice.

‘This meeting insists that government first focus on rescuing the current service to allow safe and sustainable care for patients.’

Dr Small, who has written for Pulse explaining how she went part time after the pressures of general practice left her feeling burnt out and ‘drowning’ told the ARM she was ‘furious’ with the health secretary’s speech.

She said: ‘Mr Hunt’s promise of 5,000 more GPs to follow is hollow. It’ll take a decade to train them, and in the meantime he wants us to work 40% more hours?

‘The vast majority of our patients don’t even want to see a GP routinely on a Sunday. I worked in a surgery that was open seven days a week, and I sat around twiddling my thumbs as people had better things to do that day.’

Seconding the rider motion, fellow GP Dr Farah Jameel said her message to the Government was ‘simple’, saying: ‘Unless what you really want is a service made up of exhausted, burnt-out, hamster-wheel doctors running a piecemeal, haphazard sort of service, putting patients at risk.’

‘[Representatives], it is imperative we stand together as “one profession” and send out a unified statement: “We want a better deal for general practice and patients, focused on fully resourcing a quality 24/7 urgent GP service and improved daytime routine access that can provide for safe patient care day and night”.

‘Our house is falling down, and secretary of state for health, what you are proposing is building an extension to that house.’

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter launched the ARM with his own conference speech decrying the new deal and its focus on seven-day working at the expense of investment in core services and out of hours.

And an open letter from GPs calling on the profession and public to reject seven-day access without investment has accrued more than 2,000 signatures, as part of a growing ‘no deal’ backlash.

Motion in full

Motion by THE AGENDA COMMITTEE (MOTION TO BE PROPOSED BY THE NORTH EAST REGIONAL COUNCIL): That this meeting believes that politicians irresponsibly fuel unrealistic public expectations of healthcare services for their own political ends, and:-

i) deplores politicians’ persistent and zealous pursuit of political dogma and ideology at the expense of patient care and without due regard to the view of clinicians, patients and the public;

ii) welcomes the BMA council #NoMoreGames campaign asking all political parties to stop playing games with the NHS;

iii) urges the governments to ensure their health commitments are made in the light of best evidence;

iv) urges the governments to ensure any changes to healthcare and delivery are only made when this is evidenced to be in the best interest of patients.

RIDER

That this meeting is disappointed to note that the Secretary of State’s announcement of a new deal for general practice fails these tests, putting at risk patient safety, continuity of care and the very existence of general practice. This meeting insists that government first focus on rescuing the current service to allow safe and sustainable care for patients.

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY