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NHS long-term plan should allow GPs to set workload caps, says BMA

The BMA has called for the NHS’s long-term plan to allow GPs to set workload limits, in an effort to avoid ‘a series of serious issues’ in primary care.

In the BMA’s response to NHS England’s consultation on the development of its long-term plan to spend an extra £20bn over the next five years, it says GPs ‘must… be given the flexibility to set safe working limits’.

This comes after the BMA proposed a system of ‘black alerts’ earlier this year, which suggested GPs should be able to ‘divert patients to other clinicians’ after carrying out 25 routine appointments a day.

NHS England said at the time that ‘arbitrary caps’ on appointment numbers ‘would breach GPs’ contracts’. 

However, the BMA’s consultation response said: ‘Unmanageable and unsafe workload is the primary reason behind doctors leaving general practice and is leading to a series of serious issues including practices closing to new patient registrations, practices closing altogether, GP burnout and patients being put at risk of receiving unsafe care.’

A Pulse survey previously revealed that GPs in the UK have an average of 41.5 patient contacts every day – 60% more than the number considered safe by European GPs.

The BMA voted in favour of GP practice black alerts last year, with the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting also backing calls for the introduction of maximum workload limits for GPs in June. 

The response added that changes to the NHS ‘will be more likely to succeed’ by ensuring that ‘GPs can do their jobs properly with adequate resource’.

It said: ‘General practice is the best foundation on which to build, or any change will falter, and money will be wasted on fragmented change.’

Prime Minister Theresa May announced a £20bn NHS funding increase over the next five years, with NHS England expected to publish a plan to spend the money in November.