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GP bureaucracy must not return after pandemic, says RCGP chair

General practice bureaucracy must not return to pre-pandemic levels, the chair of the RCGP has warned.

Professor Martin Marshall hailed the ‘dramatic reduction in administrative tasks’ which many GPs have not experienced for ‘five or 10 years’.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, QOF reporting has been put on hold, alongside revalidation, GP appraisals, CQC inspections and smaller administrative tasks such as the Friends and Family Test.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons health and social care committee earlier this month (1 May), Professor Marshall said: ‘We’ve seen a dramatic reduction in administrative tasks in general practice, and that has freed up space that many GPs haven’t seen or recognised for five or 10 years.

‘What we need to do is make sure that the default position is that bureaucracy won’t come back again – we need to really make sure that it doesn’t, and push hard.’

He said this comes as administrative workload has been a ‘massive problem for general practice’, with ‘about 25%’ of clinicians’ time ‘spent doing things which often don’t add very much value’.

He said bureaucracy including ‘contractual obligations, regulation organisations, professional regulation’ were not all ‘bad things’, but argued that ‘they became disproportionate’.

‘More opportunity to create space by reducing administrative workload would be massively beneficial for general practice,’ he said.

Professor Marshall, who had previously suggested that as many as half of GP consultations may be carried out remotely after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, said the challenge now was to decide how to move forward.

He said: ‘I think one of the big challenges that we have in general practice is to identify which of the Covid-related changes are good, and need to be sustained, and need to be embedded back into the service, and which ones are not good for patients and perhaps not good for the NHS, that we need to push back on.’ 

The news comes as the CQC has begun to re-engage with GP practices via a programme of phoning to check in to ‘capture and share concerns’ and offer ‘support’ to practices.