NHS England’s approach to tackling GP burnout is missing the mark, argues Jaimie Kaffash
It really doesn’t help us journalists that NHS England released its guidance on the contract on 31 March. Because our story about the QOF indicator requiring practices to do more work in order to reduce GP burnout led to 32 comments (and counting), 31 of which were asking whether it was an early April Fool’s joke. Note to our commenters – unfortunately it wasn’t, so no need to ask again.
To be clear, this isn’t the most important part of the new contract. The indicator is worth 37 points – ie, around £5,700 to the average practice. And, in truth, most practices should be able to achieve full points.
But it strikes a horrible tone. NHS England greenlighting an idea that mandates practices and networks having to tick boxes and hold meetings to improve burnout shows how much they miss the point.
Because the subtext behind it is that the extent of GP and staff burnout is dependent on practices’ processes. If you are burnt out, it is your own fault.
I am sure that if you put this to the NHS England primary care team, they would vehemently deny it. They would say this is an easy way to funnel money to practices while promoting good practice. Then why don’t they just do this? Include guaranteed funding in the contract, and if they want to publish good practice guidance, then fine.
Any such good practice guidance would presumably be ignored by practices because there is only one thing that would reduce burnout – a reduction in individual workload. This can be achieved in two ways: more GPs (and, at a major stretch, non-GP staff); or removing a chunk of work from practices. Other things would help a little, such as creating an environment where GPs aren’t being denigrated and managing patients’ expectations, but they are irrelevant unless workload decreases.
This also displays the paucity of NHS England’s (or maybe ministers’) thinking: you can only bring in improvements where there is a target.
So here is my deal with NHS England. I will stop writing critical blogs about them if they reduce stupid ideas by 100%. Although I am the April Fool if I think that might happen.