There is, according to respected think-tank the King’s Fund, ‘a growing consensus between the parties on health’. And that, I’m afraid, is bad news for GPs.
Consensus over competition, choice, the access drive and patient ratings suggests the opposition are accepting the Government’s assumptions, rather than challenging them. But as Pulse’s pre-election survey shows, GPs often do not accept those assumptions, and need them to be challenged much more vigorously as polling day approaches.
For instance, paying practices by their performance on the GP Patient Survey assumes that what patients say about their healthcare accurately reflects their experience, and that a popular doctor is a good doctor. In fact, GPs say that survey scores fail to reflect the reality of appointment access, and there are serious concerns that rewarding popular practice is increasing referrals and antibiotic prescribing.
Another assumption is that increasing the number of entry points to primary care will improve access. It fails to recognise patients’ confusion as they weigh up whether to call their GP, visit A&E or attend one of a variety of walk-in facilities. Nor does it acknowledge the dangers of fragmenting healthcare, and the communication problems this causes between providers. Then there’s use of the private sector, which assumes competition will increase efficiency, but ignores the administrative costs of setting up a market.
If politicians are accepting the status quo, the profession must challenge it. Pulse’s Manifesto for General Practice attempts to distil the views of the 900 GPs who responded to our survey, and the thousands more who are frustrated by the erosion of their autonomy as clinicians and the fragmentation of care.
It aims to highlight the central role of the GP in preserving continuity of care, to campaign for the NHS to cut waste on polyclinics and management consultants, rather than front-line services, and to free the profession from narrow political priorities. It will campaign for more partnerships, to make the profession more women-friendly and to ensure GPs get resources for their ever-expanding roles.
But politicians will only listen if we can demonstrate the profession is behind our demands. We need your support.