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‘Hospitals must close’ doctors argue, GP burnout hits the nationals… and are the RCGP and BMA split over out-of-hours?

The front page of the Times this morning proclaims that doctors believe ‘hospitals must close to save the NHS’. Not all doctors perhaps, but a weighty group represented by the Academy of Royal Colleges which, in conjunction with the NHS Confederation and patient group National Voices, has put together a report calling for the closure of up to 20 hospitals to help sustain the NHS. They argue for a massive transfer of resources out of hospitals into the community, with expansion of GP surgeries and health centres, more district nurses and greater investment in social care.

Over at the Guardian there are the first signs, perhaps, of a split between the RCGP and the BMA over the future of out-of-hours care. The paper reports that RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada believes GPs should take back responsibility for care out of hours at least for certain key groups of patients – namely the frail elderly, patients at the end of their lives, people with complex medical problems and those with certain mental health problems. This would be equivalent to about 5% of Britain’s population – or three million people.

But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey was scornful of the idea. He said: ‘If GPs took back responsibility for 5% of patients there would inevitably be pressure for it to be 100% of patients, and GPs are adamantly opposed to that.’

‘GPs will oppose her suggestion as a slippery slope. GPs are overwhelmed by their current heavy workload and long working day with as many as 50% showing signs of burnout. Even the thought of working yet longer hours on evenings and at weekends would be enough to make many GPs consider their future in the profession.’

On that note, the unprecedented pressure GPs are coming under, as revealed by Pulse this week, has hit the national papers this morning, includingTelegraph. The paper describes the shocking Pulse survey findings, which showed over 70% of GPs have high levels of emotional exhaustion and nearly half are at high risk of burnout.

Finally the BBC reports on new advice from the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists that has caused some ructions. The advice says pregnant women should ‘play it safe’ and avoid chemicals in many household products. The college says the potential risks to foetuses from exposure to components in everyday products such as cosmetics and food packaging are not clear. Things to avoid include tinned food, ready meals, shower gel and even new cars.

But critics have slammed the advice as ‘unhelpful, unrealistic and alarmist’, says the BBC.