‘We need a long-term cure for general practice’, says BMA chief

Dr Richard Vautrey is demanding more than just sticking plasters from the government to help support general practice

The leader of England’s GPs last week demanded an end to “sticking plaster solutions”, and called for an “effective, long-term cure” for the pressures facing the profession. He also urged the government to use its long-term NHS plan to properly invest in general practice.

Speaking at the BMA’s conference of English Local Medical Committees in London, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, stressed the importance of investing in general practice to ensure the future sustainability of the wider NHS and the population’s health.

Vautrey’s speech came just a day after the prime minister announced that £3.5bn of the £20bn long-term plan funding would be spent on primary and community care, something which Vautrey warns “may make good headlines for the public”, but that it must translate into “real, additional and recurrent investment”.

He also commended the dedication and achievements of GPs and their practice teams despite year-round pressures, and note a number of areas where progress is being made. Addressing representatives of England’s 100 LMCs, he said:

“The days are shortening, the temperature is dropping, the lights are on and Christmas shoppers are packing the West End of London. All very predictable.  And just as predictably NHS winter pressures are here again. But as we all know ‘winter pressure’ is a mythical diagnosis, for we experience the reality.

“The reality is an NHS that is in a year-round crisis; the pressure is on 12 months of the year, day after day.

“We know and experience this daily pressure in our surgeries.  We know and experience the pressures on our patients as they need more care from us but we struggle with the capacity to be able to respond. And we know and experience the impact on our staff and colleagues, too many of whom are becoming ill themselves as they struggle with unsafe workload.

“We know the illness, but our experience has shown that short term fixes will not solve this problem. More sticking plaster solutions will just make the patient sicker. Instead we need an effective, long-term cure.  We need nothing less than a properly funded NHS built on the solid bedrock of a thriving general practice.”

Vautrey added, regarding the prime minister’s announcement: “The announcement yesterday by the prime minister that £3.5bn of the £20bn will be spent on primary medical and community services, with a commitment to ensure a growing share of overall NHS spending goes to general practice and community healthcare, is important for us to consider.

“It may make good headlines for the public, but the devil will be in the detail and as the Nuffield Trust observed yesterday ‘far from representing a big shift in funding towards out-of-hospital services, this money will simply allow GPs and community services to keep up with demand over the next five years and it is not going to lead to a significant change in the way that people experience healthcare’.

“We already have meetings scheduled in the next few days to drill down to the detail as we cannot tolerate another five years like the last 12 and we must ensure that the crisis we face is properly addressed with real, additional and recurrent investment.

“And, to be clear, we cannot accept essential funding used for another hundred micro schemes that wrap us up in bureaucracy, leave practices wondering where the money has gone and patients no better off. We must see new funding used effectively, with practices in control so that we can start to address workload pressures and deliver a safer service to our patients.”

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