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GPs have called for the creation of ‘black alerts’ in primary care to indicate that maximum safe capacity has been reached, iNews reports.
Doctors at the British Medical Association’s annual conference in Bournemouth voted overwhelmingly in favour of introducing a similar reporting system that hospitals use “with or without government cooperation”.
Derbyshire GP Dr Peter Holden proposed the motion, warning it would give general practice a defence against the General Medical Council for problems often triggered by an unmanageable workload.
Earlier, the incoming chair of the BMA told the conference GP services are on the “brink of collapse” as it emerged that nearly 200 practices shut their doors to patients last year. Meanwhile there has been a stark rise in the number of patients seeking care from their GP, yet a quarter of appointments are “avoidable”, the conference heard.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who takes over from Dr Mark Porter at the end of the conference, said one in four patients seen by GPs could have cared for themselves at home, been seen by another health professional or their appointments had been made for “inappropriate or bureaucratic purposes”.
“Every wasted GP appointment is an appointment denied to a sick patient,” he said.
Dr Nagpaul accused the government of turning a “blind eye” to patients by ignoring pleas from the profession. He told delegates: “The individual GP practice unit is frighteningly vulnerable, with one in 10 practices surveyed saying they’re not financially sustainable. A record number of practices closed last year – not surprising with one in three practices unable to fill GP vacancies.
“General practice remains on the brink of collapse, since fundamentally demand totally outstrips our impoverished capacity. We’re seeing 50 million more patients annually in general practice compared to five years ago, with increasing care moving into the community and a growing older population – yet latest figures show that today we have fewer GPs per head than then. “This mismatch has resulted in unmanageable workload with over eight in 10 GPs saying they can’t provide safe care, which is an indictment of government policy that promotes safety in the NHS.”
Dr Nagpaul said GPs’ priority must be to “liberate” unnecessary appointments which would in effect increase GP capacity by 25%.
This would have be much more effective at improving primary care than the “political mirage of 5,000 more GPs”, he said, referring to a promise made by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Dr Nagpaul said: “Not wasting GP appointments is also key to addressing hospital pressures, since just a six per cent reduction in GP appointment capacity would double the number of patients attending A&E if they went there instead – highlighting why under-resourcing general practice is so damaging for the NHS.”
Medics at the conference also unanimously passed a motion calling for more money to be made available for GP surgeries “as a matter of urgency”.
They also called for a “rapid” expansion of the workforce. The motion, presented by Dr Richard Vautrey, who is to become acting chair of the union’s General Practice Committee, said that “the current workload pressure in general practice is unsafe and unsustainable. General practice is in crisis and the facts speak for themselves.”