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Politicians must ‘jettison pipe dreams’ of seven-day access, says GPC chair

The GPC chair will use his opening speech at the LMCs Conference today to denounce moves towards seven-day service, saying they are ‘political pipe dreams’ that will lead to the destruction of ‘comprehensive general practice service in parts of the UK’.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul will say that the Government ‘will fail dismally’ in its manifesto pledge for 5,000 new GPs if it continues with weekend opening, because it will ‘lose 10,000 GPs retiring in the same period’.

He will also say that GPs face ‘a stark choice to sink or swim’, and must work closely with pharmacists and find ‘creative new ways of working and using technology’ to ease workload pressures.

His call follows Prime Minister David Cameron’s first speech since the election, where he set out his ambition for everyone in England to have access to seven-day GP practices by 2020.

But Dr Nagpaul will warn the new Government that it is walking into a GP workforce ‘catastrophic timebomb ready to explode’.

Dr Nagpaul will say: ‘Being a GP has an unsustainable, punishing pace and intensity… The irrefutable fact is that patient demand has absolutely outstripped the capacity of GP services, and we simply don’t have the GPs, appointments, staff or space to meet these escalating demands.

‘Now the election is out of the way, I call upon the Prime Minister to jettison the political pipe dreams of tomorrow and get real about how we resource, resuscitate and rebuild general practice today.’

He will quote recent statistics revealing that one in three GPs intend to retire in the next five years, from a BMA survey of over 15,000 GPs earlier this year, as well as the latest wave of GP training scheme application being ‘even poorer than last year’, as was revealed by Pulse last month.

Dr Nagpaul will also announce plans around GPs seeking greater support from other professionals.

‘We must work with other health professional such as pharmacists who can support GPs in their daily work. We must equally be creative about new ways of working and using technology to ease pressures. The GPC will be rolling out guidance on such measures in the coming months,’ Dr Nagpaul will say.

And just like Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign, Dr Nagpaul will also call for immediate financial support for practices at risk.

He will say: ‘We also need a national programme of proactive support from government with dedicated resources for GPs and practices struggling under pressure right now –  not after the event when practices are about to collapse.’

At the conference, local leaders are set to vote on whether they can declare ‘major incidents’ and ‘capacity shutdowns’, similar to A&E departments.

LMCs from across the UK will also vote on whether to move to a salaried only service, and whether the QOF should be scrapped.

The morning session will also see a motion on whether there should be a ‘staff grade’ of GP, who could practise independently without having passed the MRCGP exam.