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#GPnews: RCGP chair defends GP practices’ right to close during core hours

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15:15 Former health minister Norman Lamb (Lib Dem) has celebrated the Prime Minister’s agreement to have a cross-party meeting to discuss the NHS.

In an ongoing House of Commons debate on the NHS, health committee chair and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston (Conservative) said with regards to a cross-party NHS agreement that she would ‘urge colleagues to sign up to this’.

13:35 Niall Dickson, who was the chief executive of the GMC until stepping down in November, is joining NHS Confederation as its new chief executive next month.

He joins its chair – the former MP, health secretary and health select committee chair – Stephen Dorrell  at the helm of the NHS leadership organisation.

Mr Dickson, who will replace Stephen Dalton, said: ‘The health and social care system is under massive strain facing unprecedented demand and severely constrained funding.

‘It’s a great privilege to join the Confederation as it works with its members and partners to deliver better, safer care and the fundamental reforms that are needed to make the system sustainable.

‘These are monumental challenges and there has never been a more important time for its various parts to come together locally and nationally.’

13:15 Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May clashed over the NHS at Prime Minister’s Questions today.

Mr Corbyn, who brought up the Red Cross warning that the NHS is suffering a ‘humanitarian crisis’, accused the PM of being ‘in denial’ over the NHS’s struggles with meeting demand. But Mrs May hit back saying that the Red Cross’ description had been ‘irresponsible and overblown’.

Commenting on the exchange, BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said:

‘The Government is wilfully ignoring the scale of the crisis in our NHS. Trying to play down the pressure that services are under shows the prime minister is out of touch with patients and frontline staff who are working flat out under impossible circumstances.’ 

11:35 Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, will be in front of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee this afternoon ‘where he will be expected to explain whether the NHS is funded sufficiently’ according to the Guardian.

The paper also reports that Mr Stevens will be asked about his relationship with the PM’s office after the Times reported that Downing Street aides were annoyed with his ‘unenthusiastic’ approach to making savings in the NHS.

Mr Stevens has repeatedly argued against Theresa May’s claim that they are giving the NHS £10bn more a year, saying it’s more like £8bn, which may not be enough.

Chuka Umunna, former shadow business secretary, said: ‘Simon Stevens has heroically kept the NHS afloat, despite its scandalous lack of funding.’

Other politicians – including Liberal Democrat former health minister Norman Lamb and the Tory chair of the health select committee Dr Sarah Wollaston – are calling for a cross-party commission to support the NHS.

This comes during a crisis period in the NHS, which the British Red Cross has called a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

10:40 The RCGP has published a (very long) statement in response to the National Audit Office’s report on the Government’s seven-day GP drive.

The response comes as national newspapers including the Telegraph and the Daily Mai l report that the NAO found patients go to A&E when GP practices are closed.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard says the NAO’s report ‘fails to recognise that when practices close temporarily during core hours, there are often very good reasons for doing so, related to ensuring high quality patient care’.

She says: ‘On occasions where practices might have to close for a short time, perhaps for staff training, adequate cover arrangements will always be put in place, and we make sure that, wherever possible, patients are fully informed well in advance.

‘It’s also the case that while a practice may be temporarily closed to patients, it does not mean that care isn’t being delivered – GPs may still be using this time to conduct telephone or online consultations for patients, or by making home visits. This is especially the case for practices with fewer GPs who cannot leave other clinical staff without GP cover whilst they go out on home visits, and so the practice has to close temporarily.’

She goes on to complain tha the report ‘ignores the fact that we are also delivering much more complex care in general practice and managing conditions that even a decade ago would have been automatically referred to hospitals’.

She concludes: ‘If general practice fails, the rest of the NHS collapses behind it. That’s why we urgently need NHS England to deliver in full on the pledges it has promised in the GP Forward View, swiftly and effectively, and for all governments in the UK to invest properly in the family doctor service, including more GPs.’

09:35 The crisis in the NHS is putting the lives of patients at risk, doctors have warned.

The Royal College of Physicians made the warning as it urged Prime Minister Theresa May to urgently make extra funding available to the ailing service, reports the Independent.

A letter from RCP President Professor Jane Dacre to Mrs May, signed by the nearly 50-strong RCP Council, said: ‘It is essential that we match the demand on health services with the resources to meet it… 

‘Promises of future investment will not address the very real challenges we face going into 2017: the time to invest is now.’