There is a ‘real threat’ that general practice will face the same fate as dentistry in the UK – where a growing number of practitioners have gone private, the chair of the RCGP has warned.
Professor Martin Marshall made the comments during his keynote address at Pulse’s flagship conference, held on Monday and Tuesday this week in London.
He said that general practice being at ‘breaking point’ is ‘probably a metaphor’, but that there is a ‘very significant and very real threat’ that it could become more like UK dentistry or ‘the very worst of the US healthcare system’.
He told GPs: ‘Some practices really have struggled [and] fallen over, [but] I don’t think the model of general practice is going to disappear completely, I don’t think it’s going to break.
‘But what I do think is if we continue under the current pressure that we’re under, general practice is going to become a more and more difficult job to do and a more and more difficult job to do well.’
He added: ‘The risk is that we might end up like the very worst of the US healthcare system where if you can pay to get good care, great, and if you can’t, you have a very sub-optimal system for picking up the pieces.
‘Or maybe like dentistry in this country over the last 15 years, where a growing number of dentists have gone private. There is an NHS system but it is really difficult to access.
‘I don’t think we want to see that in general practice and that seems to be a very significant and very real threat that we need to address.’
The current problems being seen in general practice will continue ‘unless there is a very significant intervention and investment’, Professor Marshall said.
He set out the RCGP’s ‘vision’ of the ‘key elements of what general practice will look like in the future’.
These include :
- Working at scale
- Multidisciplinary working
- Greater use of technology
- Population health
Professor Marshall previously said that the QOF system for GP payments should be scrapped, as the current system ‘doesn’t make sense whatsoever’.
And last month, he said that a ‘comprehensive rescue package’ is ‘urgently needed’ for general practice in response to a report backed by the health secretary that suggested the majority of GPs should be employed by trusts.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt will set out his own vision for the future of the profession at the Pulse LIVE conference’s closing keynote address.
It comes as representatives attending the annual conference of UK local medical committees (LMCs) next month are set to vote on a policy to reduce core GP hours to 9am until 5pm.