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‘Honest debate’ needed over NHS crisis, says Gerada

NHS chiefs have too much of an ‘emperor’s new clothes’ optimism and instead need to have an ‘honest debate’ about what is going wrong with the health service, former RCGP chair and NHS England advisor Professor Clare Gerada has said.

Professor Gerada who advises NHS England on its London primary care strategy said that although some CCGs are doing ‘really good stuff’, underneath the ‘optimistic talk’ was still a ‘demoralised workforce’, with general practice in crisis and hospitals failing to fill vacant posts.

And GPs could not be expected to ‘fund their own transformation’, she told Pulse, with her work with NHS England showing that the issue of GP premises and funding must be addressed if GPs are to cope with additional work being brought out of hospitals.

Speaking at the Commissioning Show in London on Thursday, Professor Gerada said that the Government needed to crack down on doctor-bashing stories in the press and policies designed to ‘name and shame’ such as NHS Choices, the Friends and Family test as well as the CQC inspection regime.

She also called for more investment in occupational health services, saying: ‘Our politicians have to be facing inwards to us, and supporting and protecting us.’

In response to an audience member who commented that they were ‘struggling to find the positivity in the changes that we’re going through at the moment’ Professor Gerada said: ‘It’s the emperor’s new clothes, these figures that I’ve quoted are all referenced: 25% of NHS staff feeling bullied, four times the rate in the normal state.’

‘And yet you’ve got people saying it’s all wonderful, it is not wonderful, the problem is we have to say it for the young [doctors] because we’re all used to holding ourselves up.’

‘We need to have an honest debate about what’s going wrong in the NHS today, for us, because all of you are feeling like naughty schoolchildren.’

‘You’re being told off daily about how bad you are. How can you get up in the morning, how can we get up? We get NHS Choices in our inbox and I delete it if it says negative because I cannot bear to see another negative comment.’

Professor Gerada explained to Pulse that the Government’s ambitions for the NHS could not be achieved without addressing the current ‘crisis’ in general practice.

She told Pulse: ‘With respect to the emperor’s new clothes and recent changes, I think some CCGs are doing really good stuff, but actually I think if you scratch away at a lot of the optimistic talk what you’re still seeing is a demoralised workforce – even hospitals are failing to fill their posts.’

‘So this is not just about general practice, but general practice is the crisis because it’s the front door of the NHS.’

She added: ‘We have to give GPs the headroom, my work in NHS London is saying that if we want GPs to change, we need to give them the physical space: premises, but also the head space to change. They should not be expected to fund their own transformation.’