Yes, there were plans for removing social distancing from practices. But this turned out to be a mere footnote. Alongside this were plans to target the 20% of practices with the lowest proportion of face-to-face appointments, with a threat of contractual sanctions if they don’t improve. I can’t put this better than Pulse PCN’s own columnist Julian Paterson:
There is a target to increase the volume of appointments. Yes, that’s what it says. Not only that, but this excludes Covid vaccinations.
Patients will be sent a text immediately after their appointments to ask their satisfaction levels, which will eventually be translated into financial incentives that will form a decent chunk of general practice funding.
And GP appointment data will be published on a practice level.
My experience of reporting on these support packages is that the most gruesome elements only reveal themselves days after release. If that is the case here – and I suspect it will be – one can only imagine what horrors are involved.
It is being heralded as ‘support’ in some areas, but this is the mouldiest of all carrots. A £250m winter fund – barely more than normal, and we are facing the worst winter ever – and the removal of little bits of bureaucracy. Oh, and a promise to tackle abuse. To me, it’s embarrassing that they feel they need to say this explicitly – I would have hoped this would be implicit.
You only need to look at the reaction to see how bad this plan is. The BMA have put out a strong statement. But even the RCGP – not always known for rocking the boat – can’t find anything nice to say about it. And (although I personally dislike the rehabilitation of his reputation) when even Jeremy Hunt comes out on GPs’ side against the government, that speaks volumes.
General practice will survive, because it always does and the people working in it are truly special. I’ve seen so many GPs who have been punched in the gut this morning. The next steps in countering this can wait. Right now, you have every right to just be angry.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org