Jaimie Kaffash fears that NHS England’s recovery plan will leave GPs feeling severely disappointed
It seems pretty clear that NHS England’s recovery plan for general practice is set to be published imminently, with the workforce plan set to be published soon after. Taken at face value, this should be a positive for general practice. But I fear it will be far from it.
The Times this week reported on what was set to be in the recovery plan. There was nothing particularly new in there – in fact, the majority of it had been announced as part of the broad statement about the imposed GP contract measures from earlier this month.
NHS England had already said that practices can ‘no longer ask patients to contact them at later date’ and the Times article restated the measure in its preview of the recovery plan.
It is still not clear what this measure means. We are awaiting the actual contract, probably due this week, when we will find what the contractual requirement will be on practices. My feeling is that it will be ambiguous and impossible to enforce.
But I also think this won’t matter. Because the ‘recovery’ plan will make headlines, so patients will believe that they will have a right to speak to someone immediately. At the same time, there will be promises from NHS England that they will provide support for new (mandatory) telephone systems that will banish the 8am rush. Practices will have no excuse any more to leave patients waiting.
The obvious truth is that the telephone system is not the reason patients can’t access general practice. It’s because there are not enough GPs. It’s like blaming poverty on the lack of high street banks.
Anyone hoping general practice will get anything in the new plan will be severely disappointed. With an election at most two years away, and any discernible improvement in general practice at least five away, don’t expect the Government to implement the structural changes that are necessary. What ministers and NHS England can do is show the public they understand their concerns, while at the same time giving GPs the responsibility for solving the problems.
Pulse’s ‘Best Laid Plans’ investigation showed that none of these big government initiatives have gone anywhere, and nor will this one, except for raising patients’ expectations. This next week won’t be pretty.