GP practices will not cope with a second wave of Covid-19 unless practices receive more funding for costs, more support for staff and a reduction in bureaucracy, the BMA has warned in a new report.
The BMA’s GP Committee wants routine CQC inspections to stop and for QOF reporting to pause again, as happened during the first wave of the pandemic.
Its report said patient demand is rising rapidly as well as increased workload coming into practices from other parts of the NHS.
Yet funding has not been ‘sufficiently broad’ to cover all costs incurred by practices.
This along with changing government messaging means ‘patient expectations are much increased and often unable to be matched by what practices are realistically able to deliver’.
With daily cases of Covid-19 remaining worryingly high, the GPC has outlined a series of measures that need to be put in place this Winter including:
- Occupational health services for all staff
- Practices to be supplied PPE free of charge
- Expanding the Covid Support Fund and extending it until March 2021.
- Provision of equipment to facilitate home working
- Funding for structural changes to surgery buildings to allow for improved social distancing and infection control
- A suspension of routine CQC inspections and QOF as well as a reduction in bureaucracy
- Support for practices to continue digital triage and consultations while ensuring there is always the option of a face-to-face appointment when clinically necessary
- No redeployments of GP trainees working in primary care into secondary care
- Increase and prioritise access to Covid-19 swab tests for all NHS staff and their families
- New emergency laws to protect healthcare professionals from medicolegal disputes and investigations for difficult clinical decisions made in good faith during the pandemic
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said GPs and their teams had worked incredibly hard during the height of the pandemic and had rapidly reconfigured their ways of working to ensure that they could continue to care for patients.
‘With the UK recording a record number of daily Covid cases yesterday, GPs, like all doctors, are extremely concerned that without decisive action now services will be overwhelmed if we see another spike in the coming weeks and months.
‘This means giving practices and the profession all they need – whether that’s an occupational health service similar to that already freely available to hospital workers so that staff get the vital risk assessments needed to protect them, or funding to extend surgery buildings to ensure social distancing and infection control measures are maintained, keeping patients and staff safe.’
He added it was vital that the Government and NHS England listened and implemented the measures urgently ‘to ensure that primary care can continue to operate safely through what looks to be an incredibly difficult winter’.
The report also called for clarity on how a Covid vaccination campaign would operate, and whether this might fall to general practice – and if so, what other workload would be removed, and what resource or support will be provided, to allow for this.
Other measures included a reduction in the number of appointments reserved for direct booking from NHS111 and CCAS into practices which are potentially making access worse for other patients presenting direct to practices.
And NHS providers must be held accountable for the duties they are contractually and legally required to carry out, the GPC report said, rather than transferring responsibilities to other parts of the NHS.