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Former GMC chair warns of general practice ‘death by a thousand cuts’

Current general practice is ‘completely unsustainable’ regardless of the number of GPs recruited to the workforce, the former GMC chief executive has said.

Niall Dickson, head of the NHS Confederation since stepping down from his GMC post last year, said general practice had been ‘a great strength’ of the NHS but is now ‘imploding in places’.

Speaking to delegates at a King’s Fund conference yesterday, Mr Dickson described general practice as a ‘complication’ to the NHS, but said recent moves towards GP federations and more salaried GPs presented ‘an opportunity’ for planned reform.

Speaking about the rollout of sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), he said: ‘The last thing we want is the end of general practice by a thousand cuts. We need to have a very clear strategy about how we support and move to something new. What we do know is that the current model is completely unsustainable.

‘It doesn’t matter, you can increase the numbers going in, they’re not going to be enough to meet the need.’

His comments come days after provisional figures from NHS Digital show that there has been an increase of 36 in FTE GP numbers, excluding locums in the first three months of 2017 but a decrease of 542 FTE GPs since NHS England released its GP Forward View in April last year.

Mr Dickson added that GPs are being used ‘improperly’ as the NHS is ‘a long way behind on’ forming integrated teams, with other health professionals needed to work alongside them in integrated teams.