The Government must stop pushing for seven-day routine access to general practice and insulting the thousands of GPs already working flat out from dawn to dusk, and through the night and at weekends, GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has told the BMA’s annual conference.
Dr Nagpaul said it was ‘simply unrealistic and illogical’ for the Government to expect all practices to offer routine appointments seven days a week when there are already too few GPs to meet current demands, and called for urgent measures to stop GPs being driven out of the profession.
Referring to the Government’s ‘new deal’ promising an additional 5,000 GPs by 2020 in exchange for delivering a routine, seven-day service, Dr Nagpaul warned: ‘This will damage quality by spreading an inadequate GP workforce so thinly, replace continuity of care with impersonal shift-work, and take GPs away from caring for vulnerable older patients.’
Dr Nagpaul cited evidence uncovered by Pulse that the Government’s own pilots had shown there is little demand for routine weekend appointments, with waiting rooms left empty on Sundays and one scheme closing altogether – and said ministers needed to help GPs manage demand rather than stoking public expectations.
He called for a deal that would ‘lift the profession off its knees’ and give GPs enough resources to ‘do our jobs properly, with enough time with patients to provide safe, quality care’.
He said: ‘The Government must invest in a renaissance in general practice, so that it’s a regeneration zone with a bright future, with a manageable and rewarding workload, where GPs have the time and tools to reconnect with the joy of being GPs providing holistic care to patients.
‘Only then will a new generation of doctors want to become GPs, and existing GPs want to remain working so that we can revive, rebuild and safeguard the future of our unique and proud family doctor service, admired the world over.’
Dr Nagpaul’s comments come after it emerged the Government was already rolling back on the pledge to emply 5,000 additional GPs by 2020, amid concerns over collapsing applications for GP training posts.