General practice needs to brace itself for the impact of Brexit hitting next year, delegates at the Rural Primary Care Conference have heard.
Potential inflation of between 5-10% as a result of the UK leaving the EU will hit the NHS and general practice in particular hard, GPC member Dr Peter Holden warned the conference in Tregynon, near Newtown last month.
Speaking to Pulse after his speech, Dr Holden said GPs have not yet got to grips with what Brexit means economically but it was time to face up to reality.
‘If people don’t think the pound is worth as much, the tax take will go down and inflation will go up,’ he said.
‘And a lot of what we use in the health service is imported.’
He said unlike small businesses there was very little practices could do themselves to mitigate the impact as their costs were fixed but they needed to be aware of what was coming.
‘If we get inflation and no increase in funding we will have to start cutting staff and patients will have to wait longer. We will have to start downsizing,’ he said.
Another key message from the conference was that practices will have to start collaborating more and moving towards working in federations in order to ensure their survival.
‘Working at scale is one way of dealing with this although that is not the sole answer’ said Dr Holden who is also a member of the GP practice finance committee.
He said it was important for GPs to realise that being part of a bigger partnership does not mean the end of personalised care.
Dr James Kiel, a Welshpool GP and chair of the Montgomeryshire Medical Society who organised the event, said the message about federations may have come to a shock to GPs.
‘I think a lot of delegates were confronted with a future that hasn’t loomed very large on their horizon,’ he said.
‘We heard about lots of different options but the take home message was GPs need to be aware of this as change is coming and stasis is not necessarily an option.’
He added there had also been a lot of discussion about a greater skill mix in general practice to take pressure off GPs.
‘Recruitment isn’t going to get any better,’ he said.
‘Ultimately this is all about making sure general practice is sustainable.’