The BMA and RCGP have taken a stand against a Times column that suggested GP pay should be cut to curb trends towards part-time working.
It comes as both bodies last week wrote to the Telegraph in response to Allison Pearson’s ‘completely unfair’ column in which she said she is ‘not surprised’ GPs have received a torrent of abuse.
On Friday, a piece by Times columnist James Kirkup entitled ‘Generous GP pay isn’t working for patients’ blamed GP earnings for part-time working and early retirement.
It said that increased demand is only part of the reason it is ‘so hard to see a GP’ alongside the ‘love of money’, as GPs ‘have enough of it to work less or not at all’.
It added: ‘Most employers who had to hire three people to fill a single post would be looking to change things somewhere.
‘The taxpaying public could be forgiven for thinking if GPs were paid a bit less, there might be more of them available to see patients.’
Responding to the column, the BMA said yesterday that the suggestion of cutting GP pay to improve patient access to services is ‘completely counterintuitive’ and would make general practice ‘an even less attractive career destination’.
The ‘flexibility’ of general practice has helped recruit and retain doctors from many backgrounds – including those with additional health, family and caring responsibilities – without whom the GP crisis would be ‘even worse’, it added.
The BMA also said that GPs are reducing their hours to avoid burnout, while many are not actually working part-time but are ‘putting in extra hours elsewhere in the NHS in addition to the hours they already work in their practice’.
In a letter to the national newspaper’s editor, BMA GP committee workforce policy lead Dr Samira Anane said: ‘Hard-working family doctors are not reducing their hours because their wages allow them to work part-time.
‘The stresses and pressures of the job right now are so high that in not doing so they would burn out completely.’
She added: ‘Ultimately, if we are to boost the GP workforce and encourage more doctors to work and stay in primary care, we need to make it a more attractive destination – addressing unsustainable workloads and giving surgeries the improvements to staffing levels, technology and infrastructure that they need.’
The RCGP also responded to the opinion piece with a letter published in Saturday’s Times, saying ‘excessive workload and workforce shortages’ rather than GP earnings are to blame for problems with access.
It said: ‘The crisis in general practice is not about pay, pensions or GPs working part-time. We are now seeing the consequences of a decade of under-investment in the family doctor service.
‘Recruitment of new GPs and, critically, efforts to retain existing GPs have not kept pace with the needs of an ageing and growing population, and the job of a modern GP in providing safe and personalised patient care is becoming increasingly impossible.’
The RCGP reiterated its call on the Government to ‘urgently deliver’ on its commitment of an additional 6,000 full-time equivalent GPs in post by 2024.
It added that it will ‘continue to push back against the recent sustained criticism of GPs by certain sections of the media’.
It comes as the BMA has launched a public campaign to rally support for GP practices, which aims to explain GP pressures and why it has been difficult to secure a face-to-face appointment over the last 18 months.
Researchers last week warned policymakers that support measures must be put in place to improve GP retention after a major study showed a steady increase in turnover over the last decade.