Yet again, the Government has chosen to rely on soundbites during the Conservative Party conference rather than actually addressing the fundamental issues facing general practice and patient care.
This announcement, which was not discussed with the BMA, does nothing to address the root causes of the pressures on general practice; escalating patient demand from an aging population and care moving into the community, crippling underfunding and a chronic shortage of GPs. Nine in 10 GPs state that workload pressures are damaging the quality of patient care.
The Government must learn from its own pilot schemes where there have been a number of examples of weekend appointments having little or no pick up by patients. These proposals could waste precious NHS resources and divert staff and funds from overstretched core GP services.
GPs already provide around the clock care, seven days a week – we need this to be properly staffed and funded rather than be undermined.
While getting rid of the box ticking of QOF is something the BMA has long been calling for, this should apply to all practices. It would be wholly wrong if this is being used as a carrot to only benefit patients for those practices considering the new GP contract.
Crucially, we do not need the diversion of a new contract, we need proper levels of investment in GP services, and thousands more GPs and staff to keep up with the sheer number of patients coming through the door in order to provide safe, quality care.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul is chair of the GPC