General practice is at ‘breaking point’ and urgent action is needed from the Government to help GPs deal with the aftermath of Covid and prevent them and their staff from burning out, the RCGP has warned.
Launching an emergency action plan for recovery today, the college said the set of proposals ‘sends out an SOS for general practice’.
It is calling for greater efforts to recruit the 6,000 GPs promised in the Conversative manifesto, the eradication of bureaucracy and unnecessary workload that is leading to burnout, and improved recruitment of the 26,000 additional clinical roles being brought into primary care networks (PCNs), all by 2024.
GPs must also be able to work in modern buildings that are fit for purpose by 2024 through £1bn investment, and it is crucial they have a ‘strong voice’ in new integrated care systems, which are set to take over from CCGs from 2022, said the RCGP.
The plan also calls for:
- funding in place for at least 4,000 GP trainees every year, expanding towards 5,000 as soon as possible
- a new GP retention strategy, including looking at ‘agile working’
- implementation of ‘light-touch and risk-based’ regulatory models, reducing paperwork and reporting requirements
- an overhaul of contractual requirements, such as QOF, to focus on alternative ‘high-trust’ approaches for showing high-quality care
- more staff in the wider practice team to be able to prescribe medications or sign fit notes
- improved access to structured training and induction programmes for additional clinical roles hired by PCNs
- additional investment in local leadership, by increasing funding for PCN clinical directors by at least 0.5 of a full-time-equivalent role
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said before the Covid-19 pandemic hit GPs were ‘already under immense workload and workforce pressures’.
The impact of the pandemic has meant these pressures are now ‘unsustainable’ and as the virus outbreak moves beyond the critical period, primary care teams must be given support to help care for their patients, including those with long Covid and related mental and physical problems, he added.
He said: ‘We simply do not have enough GPs to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population, with increasingly complex conditions, on top of managing the fallout and work backlog from the pandemic. If general practice collapses, the rest of the NHS will follow not far behind it.’
Professor Marshall called upon the health secretary and incoming chief executive of NHS England to take ‘urgent action’ by heeding the RCGP’s call for its emergency proposals to be put in place.
He added: ‘We are offering the new secretary of state and the incoming leader of the NHS in England ready-made solutions to the problems that have beset general practice for more than a decade – our proposals will improve the care of patients for generations to come.
‘We now need urgent action and for those solutions to be implemented.’
A major Pulse survey earlier this year revealed GPs are working 11-hour days and dealing with an average of 37 patients in that time – far more than the 28 patients they believe is the safe daily limit in the pandemic.
The BMA has also warned the latest GP workforce figures show the number of GPs is failing to keep up with current demand.
Former RCGP chair Professor Dame Clare Gerada has spoken out about a burnout crisis in general practice, following more than a 20% rise in cases at mental health service NHS Practitioner Health during the pandemic.