Exclusive NHS England will debate the ‘intense pressures’ facing general practice in its board meetings this week as a result of GP lobbying through Pulse’s Battling Burnout campaign.
In response to an urgent letter from Pulse, signed by more than 150 GPs and practice managers, NHS England chairman Professor Malcolm Grant has written to acknowledge the ‘seriousness’ of the issues affecting general practice.
Pulse said there needed to be ‘urgent reassessment of how GP practices are funded’, in particular looking at the devaluation of QOF payments, the MPIG withdrawal and the national review of PMS funding , and urged Professor Grant to ‘reconsider the restrictions on occupational health funding for practice staff, such as practice nurses or managers’.
Professor Grant added that he will raise the concerns about GP burnout at NHS England, with a view to it forming part of NHS England’s ‘five year forward view’ for NHS services, due next month.
GPC welcomed the development, and said it was essential that the issue remained on NHS England’s agenda.
Pulse wrote to Professor Grant after NHS England agreed to national provision of ‘high quality’ occupational health services for GPs in need, following intense campaigning by Pulse.
Professor Grant’s response states: ‘Thank you for your letter of 1 August 2014, in which you express the hope that our recognition, at NHS England, of the intense pressures on the GP profession, should be the first stage of a wider reassessment of how the NHS can support GPs better.
‘I am deeply conscious of the seriousness of this issue, and it is one that I will be raising with the Board of NHS England in our meetings next week.
‘It forms part of the complex framework for our thinking that we are developing for the five year forward view for the provision of NHS services that we are proposing to publish next month.’
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul told Pulse it was essential that this issue was kept on NHS England’s agenda, saying: ‘We cannot take off the pressure on this issue, because it isn’t just having an occupational health service, it’s have a fit for purpose occupational health service.
‘So we need to make sure that the pressure is maintained. Firstly to make sure it’s fit for purpose, second to make sure it covers all GPs – not just those in practices – and thirdly, that practice staff are also covered.
‘I don’t think this is an issue about whether or not you have an occupational health service; this is about the sustainability of general practice to continue providing care.’
NHS England had pledged to retain any legacy PCT funding for occupational health services that were in place when area teams took over, but Pulse revealed that many area teams were backtracking on the deal.
In some areas, occupational health services would only be funded where a GP’s performance was already suffering, and national availability of support services was highly variable.