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‘Return to NHSE negotiations imminently’, health secretary urges BMA


Health secretary


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 also reiterated that the use of standard operating procedures (SOPs) is a ‘temporary approach’.

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

READERS' COMMENTS [6]

Simon Ruffle 18 June, 2021 10:51 am

Totally in NHSE gift. Health secretary to urge them to create the conditions where BMA will talk. The abused shouldn’t be forced to talk to the abuser on their terms.

Grant Jonathan Ingrams 18 June, 2021 12:20 pm

Whole letter on line at https://i.emlfiles4.com/cmpdoc/3/7/7/5/2/files/770731_1331405—dr-richard-vautrey.pdf?utm_source=The%20British%20Medical%20Association&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=12459847_GP%20ENEWSLETTER%2017062021&dm_t=0,0,0,0,0. My take is that they didn’t really mean it about Face 2 Face, and that he agrees that micromanaging by SOPs was not ideal … Would be nice if he could have actually said this clearly though ….

Patrufini Duffy 18 June, 2021 12:50 pm

I remember when he told Dr Rosena Ali Khan to “watch her tone” at the dispatch box.
This man is on a kamikazee mission to become Prime Minister.
And NK and EW and all the other mignons will go down in history as part of his shadow.
**I suggest when the BMA returns to talks =- they take 15 nurses, 30 GPs and 50 receptionists with them. And cameras.

Samir Shah 18 June, 2021 8:12 pm

Let NHSE ask for themselves….,they are really good at writing letters.

John Glasspool 19 June, 2021 6:40 pm

Ignore him. According to Domcum BJ thinks he’s an idiot.

David jenkins 21 June, 2021 11:43 am

have you read the last line ?

“representing the wider views of general practice” – my ar*e !