The crisis in general practice is too acute to be treated as a political football, says Sofia Lind
It’s that season again. Elections are coming up and GPs are transformed into proverbial political footballs.
Lib Dems this week took their penalty kick – ouch – as they took aim at the Government over ‘rushed’ GP consultations lasting less than 5 minutes.
But as RCGP pointed out – some appointments are appropriately quick, and anyhow, a larger percentage of all consultations were longer than 10 minutes.
They seem to have succeeded too, with the BMA’s GP Committee surprisingly declaring that they saw a ‘glimmer of hope’ and urging the Government to follow.
I am less convinced.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting’s big unveil of Labour’s primary care reform proposals felt more like a backtrack than a formed plan.
The main promise in the speech was for reform of primary care, for which he used the analogy that Labour will fix the front door.
But it isn’t the front door that is broken in general practice, there simply is nobody home. So how will Labour stop GPs from leaving in their droves?
Mr Streeting pointed out that ‘many staff are suffering moral injury’ over the poor quality of service they can currently deliver and are therefore ‘quitting the service’.
Another moral injury inflicted on GPs recently was when Mr Streeting said in February that he wanted to ‘tear up’ the ‘murky, opaque GP contract’.
This he seemed to acknowledge by taking it all back. He claimed that ‘contrary to reports, I have absolutely no intention of nationalising GPs’.
He went on to say that he ‘knows’ that ‘some of what Labour has proposed’ has ‘set the cat amongst the pigeons’, adding: ‘That is deliberate.’
So what does that mean? Was it all a ruse? Can we trust the latest – very vague – description of what Labour policy will be on general practice?
‘We are exploring how to make the future of general practice sustainable, so patients aren’t left without, when more and more GPs are choosing to take the salaried route and partnerships are forced to close, because fewer GPs want to take them on.’
What does that mean?
Mr Streeting spoke some truths – the Tories are living in a fairy tale if they believe the NHS is still ‘the envy of the world’ (you can speak to the Ukrainians currently living in my house if you want that one backed up).
And the comprehensive NHS workforce plan – as well as the primary care recovery plan – have proved ‘illusive’ indeed.
I recently became a British Citizen, partly because I wanted to vote. But without detailed plans for how to retain GPs, I fear all the major political parties are only scoring own goals.