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Don’t waste this crisis

Don’t waste this crisis

When Professor Dame Clare Gerada says that burnout is worse than it has ever been, we should listen.

As someone who has been chair of the RCGP and is now heading up the mental health support programme for doctors, when Professor Gerada says the leaders of the profession should say ‘no more’, and should tell ministers’ unless you give us help, we cannot continue’, it is significant.

The one message I am receiving from readers is that workload is at breaking point (something NHSE has acknowledged, in fairness). Now, it’s not the first time I have written this. But for me the difference this time is three-fold: first, that GPs are being burned out while facing the added insult of being told they are not open; second, that they are in a certain limbo, with these Covid arrangements continuing indefinitely as the world opens up around them; and third, that there was a moral obligation to help with the vaccine effort while continuing their normal work.

NHS England’s intervention last week, where it clarified the ongoing arrangements, was welcome.

But I hope that there are discussions going on in the background around what the ‘new normal’ (sorry to use that phrase) will be. With such a drastic change to general practice as there has been in the past year, it seems like we shouldn’t waste this crisis.

Now is the perfect time to set out a realistic vision around what general practice can provide with the resources they have. I maintain there is only one solution to GP workload that will be satisfying for GPs and patients – ending austerity and addressing the causes of ill health. But, if the Government isn’t willing to go down this road, it has to look at limiting demand.

The next contract negotiations should not be around funding new staff, or even an uplift in pay. These only go so far. The negotiation should be on what general practice is for, and more importantly what it is not for.

If this doesn’t happen, then GPs will continue to visit Professor Gerada’s burnout service in increasing numbers, and – as the former RCGP chair says – will ultimately vote with their feet.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

John Graham Munro 28 April, 2021 9:05 pm


Patrick Pearson 28 April, 2021 9:51 pm

Dear John, I am in no doubt that you can but that does not mean we are not human. If you cut us we still bleed. We are doing our best in very difficult circumstances and it is not easy to cope with the increasing demands put on us with the dwindling resources given to us. What is your answer to the tsunami of mental health issues affecting our children who are waiting for 9 months for help? We are a limited resource who can only work for so long before burning and crashing.
I work in my surgery all my normal hours and more then spend my time off giving covid vaccines. What more do you want? I have not had a day off for weeks and continue working at home when not at the surgery to keep up with the demand. Your crass and unfeeling comments do nothing to help the situation.

John Graham Munro 29 April, 2021 12:16 pm

Patrick Pearson and Mike Baverstock—–I qualified in 1968 and have worked in Australia and Canada too so I’ve been around the block a bit wouldn’t you say? I’ve just secured my G.C.E. ;O’ level certificate in order to enroll in a two day training course before I’m eligible to give vaccinations—-something have been doing anyway the whole of my professional career.——that’s what i call stress. Seeing the never ending succession of television doctors away from their busy schedules also brings on my migraines. Finally. there is plenty of help out there if Gerada and her ilk can get rid of the obstructive bureaucracy

Mike Baverstock 29 April, 2021 4:11 pm

With respect, John, having been around should not qualify you to deride your colleagues. You do not appear to be a current GP partner. Unless you are then I do not personally consider it fair for you to pass an opinion with regard to the stress your colleagues face on a daily basis. Sarcasm is known to be the lowest form of wit so perhaps you would consider a comment based on your presumed high intelligence next time you wish to pass an opinion via social or other media.

Patrufini Duffy 29 April, 2021 8:23 pm

Once every reader and every GP realises that they are patients too, and they too will die, only then will they attain awareness, perspective and distance from the infinite demand of infinite humans.
The NHS is open to 8 billion people, with billions of issues, expectations and personality disorders.
Look after yourself, as this machine couldn’t care less for you, and you don’t have priority at A+E if you collapse in VF.
So…my advice, start with the word no. Take more breaks, see less patients, deflect them to other providers and maintain integrity in core medicine. Not the nannying stuff, cut that short. And who cares for a 1* Google review or angry verbal diarrhoea, this country has lost its direction and reality and respect. You can move abroad and you can reduce your hours. You’re not superhuman and the universe will be absolutely fine without you/us. So try enjoy what life you can, helping others en route.

Graham Moyse 30 April, 2021 12:42 pm

This and many other commentaries miss the vital point, which is that remote consulting is a major factor in the present workload crisis and one within our control. Remote access leads to excessively easy access. This in turn incentivises patients to call us first rather than try self management. Therefore, we end up fielding time consuming and pointless questions about self limiting illness. Meanwhile, the patient can do so without clearing the hurdles of the receptionist (in case of econsult), the wait for the next appointment and the inconvenience of turning up and sitting in the waiting room. They don’t even know we are busy because they can’t see our teeming (virtual) waiting room. Returning to FTF as the default option would be a great step in the battle to control workload. Furthermore it is usually quicker overall and there is a wealth of evidence that proves it.

James Cuthbertson 30 April, 2021 12:50 pm

Basic economics. The only way to reduce demand is to make something less appealing.