The leader of the GPC has taken the fight to the Government in the opening speech of the LMCs Conference, warning that the NHS is in danger of ‘collapsing’ unless there is at least a 2.5% increase in funding for general practice.
In a passionate speech to delegates in York, he said GPs are facing a ‘quadruple whammy’ of a crisis in workload, workforce, premises and morale.
He also criticised the failure of CCGs to commit funding to support GPs in delivering care for elderly patients, and launched a fresh assault on NHS 111, saying it was a ‘disgrace’ that patients have to endure a ‘litany’ of questions from a computer algorithm.
He said: ‘After years of devaluing our worth, the crux of my argument to Government since I took office, is for politicians to grasp that general practice is the solution, not the problem. That increasing the proportion of NHS spend into general practice by just an initial 2.5%, will translate to a one third increase in our resources and which could transform our ability to provide care that patients need, and reap huge cost efficiencies in a cash-strapped NHS.’
Receiving a rapturous reception, Dr Nagpaul added: ‘Let me warn those that continue in their quest to denigrate us. Continue to put off younger doctors into becoming GPs, continue to accelerate those leaving the profession, and you certainly won’t have the last laugh when you won’t have a GP to turn to in times of need, and when the NHS collapses because its very building blocks have imploded.’
‘But we won’t just roll over and let this happen. General practice matters too much to you and me, but more importantly to our patients who fundamentally depend on us.’
He warned that GPs were suffering from ‘extreme’ levels of stress.
‘We have the quadruple whammy of a crisis in workload, workforce, premises and morale. Last year’s GP worklife survey by Manchester University showed GPs suffering extreme levels of stress – the highest since records began, and a sharp rise in those intending to retire early. The government can’t argue with these findings, since they themselves commissioned this report, but conveniently fail to mention it anywhere. And what’s NHS England’s cure? To shamefully threaten withdrawing occupational health services for over-stressed GPs and their staff when they need them most.
With regards to NHS 111, Dr Nagpaul stressed the need for the out-of-hours call centres to be staffed by clinicians rather than lay call handlers.
‘But if you really want to improve things, then start with the first point of contact a patient makes out of hours which is a phone call to NHS 111. It’s a disgrace that patients have to endure a litany of questions from a computer algorithm about what they don’t suffer with, rather than what they do, with GPs receiving two pages of meaningless negative findings rather than why the patient actually sought help.’
‘Patients should speak to a clinician at times of urgent medical need, not a lay person guided by electronic robotic questions that have no grasp of their complex, multiple or mental health issues.’
In conclusion, he said: ‘The Government must recognise that starving general practices of cash, is starving services for patients. And it’s patients who suffer.’