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 firstname.lastname@example.org.