Dr Chris Mimnagh: Politicians must face the reality of the GP workforce crisis

I worry that real meanings are sometimes not obvious. For example, if you were ever told by a teacher 'I suggest you quietly reflect on that', it doesn't really mean that you should carefully think about whatever action or inaction you have committed, what it means is 'go away I can't be bothered with you'.

Sadly the real meaning of that phrase is all too apparent to any schoolchild and as a result it's not a phrase that any sensible adult would offer to another sensible adult - it resonates with condescending overtones.

Similarly I worry about the ‘crisis’ in general practice. The latest workforce figures are, without a doubt, disappointing. The increasing demands of an ageing population cannot be met by the current number of GPs. The government knows this, as Mr Hunt's proposed new deal, which included an additional 5,000 GPs, demonstrates.

Sadly the retirement and migrations of GPs have now made that 5,000 GP target seem even further away. If I cared about politicians being honest I’d be asking for Jeremy to ‘consider his position’.

However I don't care about politicians’ honesty. I worry that the politicians believe the motivational speakers’ myth that crisis is Chinese for ‘danger opportunity’ and that somehow they hope we can rebuild primary care into a new world of accountable care systems.

I worry that they believe we can do this while not spending any more money or costing lives. I worry that the politicians are happy to watch as we become a dangerous health care system, from which new opportunities will arise.

If the NHS executive expect CCGs to morph into accountable care systems with no legislation changes, and if politicians expect GPs to become simultaneously team leaders and available seven days a week both in surgeries and the local A&E department, there will be no opportunity only danger.

That leads me to my final worry. That by the time we have worked out a sustainable future for the NHS, there will be no NHS to sustain - and I can’t be clearer than that.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool and head of clinical innovation liaison and deployment at The Innovation Agency, the academic health science network for the north-west coast.

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