Politicians must address the issue of ‘full’ GP surgeries when the country goes to the polls for a snap general election proposed for 8 June, doctors’ leaders have said.
Responding to the news that Prime Minister Theresa May will bring a motion to Parliament to call an election in just seven weeks’ time, BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said ‘politicians of all partiers’ must not ‘duck the crisis in the NHS any longer’, as NHS staff including GPs are now working under ‘impossible conditions’.
And Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said voters would ‘expect’ any incoming Government to reverse the situation of GP underfunding to solve the crisis in general practice.
Dr Vautrey said: ‘It is widely accepted that general practice is in crisis, with spiralling workload pressures that most GPs believe are putting patients at risk, and too few GPs, practices nurses and other staff to meet the growing needs of an increasingly elderly population.
‘Voters will expect any incoming Government to reverse a decade of underfunding general practice services and make real and tangible commitments to addressing unsustainable workload pressures and to rebuilding general practice and community services, because if general practice fails the NHS will fail.’
Meanwhile, Dr Porter said this comes as ‘consecutive governments have been in denial about the state of the NHS’ and at the time of elections, they have ‘chosen to use it as a political football’.
He said: ‘Health is always one of the most important issues for the people of this country and with the NHS at breaking point, having been put through one of the worst winters on record, it must be a central issue in the upcoming election. The NHS must not be pushed to the margins in the focus on Brexit.
‘Staff have ensured that we still have one of the best health services in the world, but years of underinvestment while patient demand has been rising means that it is now failing too many people, too often.’
He said this comes as ‘our hospitals and GP surgeries are full and social care is on its knees, with staff working under impossible conditions’.
And, despite calls for Britain’s exit from the EU not to overshadow election policies, he added that there were still ‘serious question marks over the future of thousands of EU citizens who are a vital part of the NHS’, which did need to be addressed.
He concluded: ‘We call on politicians of all parties not to duck this crisis any longer, and instead to outline credible and sustainable plans that will safeguard the future of the fully funded and supported NHS that staff want and patients deserve.’
His comments come as Pulse revealed a 150% rise in patients forced to move GP practice, as closures hit record levels in the past year and as a DH-backed study showed that over two-thirds of GPs plan to leave or reduce hours in the next five years.
Also commenting on the election announcement, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that it was ‘crucial’ that ‘any future government’ delivers the £2.4bn GP Forward View rescue package for general practice.
She said: ‘It is vital that patient care is kept at the forefront of debate over the coming weeks.
‘Once the new Government is formed, we will continue to press for the urgent delivery of all the pledges made in NHS England’s GP Forward View – and for equivalent investment in GP services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.’