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Previews of the year: More of the same, I’m afraid

It is remarkably difficult to make predictions about the year ahead for general practice in the continued wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Recent weeks have made it clear that Covid may yet have a sting in its tail. Whether the virus inflicts significant pressure on the NHS or not (I suspect Covid might be the least of our worries in the coming year), our reaction is bound to. From infection control measures, soaring waiting lists, reduced capacity in secondary care and vaccination pressures, to the impact of testing and isolating on the public and healthcare professionals, I predict we will face an exceedingly challenging year. 

It will be a year in which opposing factions continue to call for very different approaches to managing this virus. I suspect the media, politicians and healthcare leaders will continue to obsess about Covid, while the physical and mental health of the nation worsens. 

Life expectancy will fall, cancer survival statistics will worsen and rates of mental health problems will increase. Waiting lists will lengthen and the isolation of our patients, their economic hardship, and lack of community and secondary care support will combine to markedly increase demand for GP time.

Our full-time-equivalent numbers will continue to decline, as more GPs find ways to reduce their clinical commitments in the face of the unmanageable pressures. A wave of retirements is also bound to unfold, following the stress of the past two years. In turn, our patients will find it harder to access a GP – the ongoing denigration of our profession by the press will be an unavoidable result.

Let’s not kid ourselves – NHS England will not provide any meaningful package of support, or changes to improve our service or bolster the workforce. 

The battle lines between the BMA and NHS England will remain, with the former lacking focus and a clear direction from the profession, and the latter loath to be seen to be giving more money to greedy doctors. Unfortunately, in this stalemate, hardworking GPs will find themselves propping up an increasingly substandard and frankly dangerous health service. LMCs are displaying increasing discontent with the PCN model, and we may begin to see the unravelling of this project.

Fundamentally, I predict 2022 will see us dealing with the death throes of a crumbling NHS, and the outcomes are unlikely to be pretty. I’m genuinely sorry I can’t provide a more positive spin – but Happy New Year anyhow! 

Dr Katie Musgrave is a GP in Devon

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Patrufini Duffy 7 January, 2022 4:23 pm

Yes. Fundamentally, I envisage the 50 hours of CPD ticker to remain, sertraline to perhaps have a supply chain issue and April 2022 to be the month where GPs get slaughtered by the media when your consultations become visible to the public. It will be a barrel of laughs, of tweetable screenshots and total amnesia of anything you do or have done. *But, the fault will also lie if you yourself become amnesic. And you let it all recoil back into the hands of the demand, want and aggression of graffiti, slurs and threats. Which some of you will do, as they dangle a few £ signs here and there, while penning you into a data whirlpool of PCN accountability, monitoring and herding. But, fortunately there are FRCGPs and Dames and Profs and Sirs and podium-goers duly paid and ordained to work on your behalf and voice the cataclysm and urgency of nothing and to achieve close to absolute zero as their New Year Resolution (which is −273.15 on the degree sheet) by December 2022, in what will be an utterly warped year for Doctors. Keep signing up, keep calm, ask for some advice and guidance and stay General.

Decorum Est 8 January, 2022 10:10 pm

As P Duffy suggests, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.
(meanwhile, notice in local vet’s window –
‘If in need of emergency Out Of Hours Care for your pet,
Please Phone xxx xxx xxxx.
Charge is £198.50 and a consultation fee of £50’).
If you’re worried about your pet,
Why don’t you discuss your worries with your GP
For free!