Exclusive The health secretary has written to the BMA, asking it to ‘return to negotiations’ with NHS England ‘immediately’, Pulse has learned.
It comes as Pulse revealed this week that the BMA is still waiting for a response that will ‘restore confidence’ in NHS England following the fallout around GP face-to-face appointments.
Last month, the BMA’s GP Committee voted to pause all formal meetings with NHS England until the disagreement around face-to-face appointments – sparked by a letter to all practices from NHS England – is resolved.
In a letter to the BMA last week, seen by Pulse, Matt Hancock said he ‘welcomed’ a meeting held on 27 May to discuss the BMA’s ‘concerns’ but asked it to ‘restore relationships’ with NHS England.
The meeting followed a letter from GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey to the health secretary on 18 May, demanding an ‘urgent meeting’ to seek clarity regarding face-to-face GP appointment advice.
In his 11 June response, revealed today, Mr Hancock said: ‘Given the central role that general practice has for people’s care, it is essential that we continue to work together to deliver the best care for patients.
‘It is therefore very important to me that we are able to restore relationships and return to negotiations imminently. I’m grateful for your continued work in this area, representing the wider views of general practice.’
The health secretary responded to BMA concerns about a ‘potential target for face-to-face appointments’, saying that ‘we will not be doing this and nor was there a plan to do so’.
He said: ‘I know you also have concerns about the ongoing use of standard operating procedures and whilst these have played an important role during the pandemic response, I can assure you that they are a temporary approach and we will seek to move away from their use as we transition further out of the pandemic.’
Mr Hancock thanked ‘all general practice staff for the incredible work they have been doing since the start of the pandemic to deliver essential care and support to all patients’.
He said: ‘I recognise the immense pressures currently facing general practice delivering Covid-19 vaccinations alongside maintaining routine appointments in addition to the support general practice has provided to the clinically extremely vulnerable and those with long Covid.
‘The profession has shown flexibility and resilience in order to adapt to these pressures.’
He added: ‘General practice will continue to play a vital role in our recovery from this pandemic and I want to work collaboratively to understand how best to facilitate this.’
In his May letter, Dr Vautrey had also called for renewed Covid funding for practices as well as an ‘end to directive letters’; and a suspension of QOF, PCN service specifications and routine CQC inspections.
It said that GPs ‘do not feel supported by the Government or NHS England’ and called on the Government to provide a ‘major public campaign’ that ‘explicitly supports’ general practice and is honest with the public about the challenges faced.
It follows calls among grassroots GPs for the resignation of NHS England’s medical director for primary care amid the furore created by its letter – with a petition to that effect racking up over a thousand signatures.
We changed the headline of this story from ‘immediately’ to ‘imminently’ at 11:30 on 18 June. Apologies for the confusion