Exclusive: GP magazine calls on political parties to support general practice

GP leaders have backed a call by GP magazine for England's three main political parties to make a statement in support of general practice, as the growing crisis puts intolerable strain on the profession.

The GPC, RCGP, NHS Alliance, National Association of Primary Care and Family Doctor Association have all lent their support to GP’s call for politicians to show they value general practice.

The president of the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU), part of the Unite union, has also voiced his support for the appeal to politicians.

Less than a year from the general election, practices across the UK are under unprecedented pressure.

GP morale is in freefall, with the share of NHS funding spent on general practice at the lowest level on record, the workforce in decline, practices starved of premises investment, soaring workload and falling profits.

Groundswell of support for practices

A groundswell of support for practices hit hard by funding cuts has begun to emerge, underscoring 
patients’ support and appreciation for GPs.

But GP leaders agree the profession is now near breaking point and warn that political leaders must take action to prevent a catastrophic impact on patient care.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said GP’s call for politicians to support general practice was a ‘crucial’ part of the fight to protect the profession.

‘This has to be a fundamental part of the 2015 general election debate,’ he said. ‘Getting the message across to politicians that if they want to save the NHS, they have to invest in general practice, the foundation of the health service.’

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘We are pleased to back GP’s call on all major political parties in England to promote more positive messages about general practice.

Politicians must support the profession

‘GPs across the UK are working harder than ever to provide safe care to our patients. We need politicians to support our profession, to show what an exciting, varied and rewarding job being a GP can be – and what a difference we make to our patients’ lives. We also need politicians to act on our calls for general practice to receive 11% of the overall NHS budget by 2017.’

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said simultaneous reforms to MPIG and PMS contracts had put practices at risk. 

He warned that NHS leaders could not expect GPs to deliver ‘serious ambitions’, such as taking on work moved out of hospitals, if they were treated as ‘an afterthought’.

Family Doctor Association chairman Dr Peter Swinyard said that claims of a general practice crisis 
had been repeated ‘every year for the past 20 years’.

‘But there really is a crisis,’ he said. ‘We have to stop people subverting the argument into this being about doctors’ pay. It isn’t. 

‘We have accepted that our pay is going down – we want enough resources to provide the auxiliary 
and nursing staff and keep facilities open longer, maintain quality and pay for locums.

‘If general practice got the proportion of the health budget we had five years ago, I don’t think we would have anything like as many problems.’

National Association of Primary Care chairman Dr Charles Alessi said: ‘Primary care and general practice are not being supported as much as they should be by NHS England.’

He said PMS practices were being ‘attacked unnecessarily’ and warned that little action had been taken by NHS officials to resolve the premises crisis, although there had been ‘every opportunity to do so’.

Dr Ron Singer, president of the MPU, said: 'I would like to support GP's call on political leaders to pledge support for general practice.

'It is curious that GPs are meant to have been placed at the centre of the NHS but find themselves victims of underfunding and an impossible workload. Patients need a quality general practice service - the NHS needs it too if we are to re-establish the NHS as a premier, comprehensive health service.'

Read more: Editorial - Now is the time to Save our Surgeries

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