GPC chairman warns GPs are 'strained beyond endurance'

UK GPs are 'overworked and strained beyond endurance', Dr Laurence Buckman warned on Thursday in his final speech as GPC chairman.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman: GPs under strain (Picture: JH Lancy)
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman: GPs under strain (Picture: JH Lancy)

Dr Buckman won a 70-second standing ovation from senior GPs after a speech warning that the NHS 'is under real threat'.

Speaking at the 2013 UK LMCs conference in central London, Dr Buckman said: ‘We meet today at a critical point for the NHS and for general practice. It is no exaggeration when I say: a signal has been passed at danger.’

The GPC chairman hit out at the government for ‘denigrating us and using the NHS as a political weapon’, and urged health secretary Jeremy Hunt to ‘start listening now’.

He hit out at health secretary Jeremy Hunt for 'spouting rubbish' by blaming the GP contract for rising pressure on A&E.

Pressure on A&E was due to how emergency activity was calculated, cuts in bed numbers, staff shortages in hospitals and the 'botched introduction of NHS 111', Dr Buckman argued, and 'not a failure in out-of-hours primary care'.

He won applause for a warning that GPs 'cannot become the providers of last resort for urgent out-of-hours services' and were not prepared to 'shore up a system that has been rendered unsafe by unwise political meddling'.

Dr Buckman called for a 'real debate' to plan the future of general practice. 'If society wants GPs available round the clock for routine matters, they will have to understand that daytime access will diminish or there will need to be a greatly expanded GP workforce.'

He warned that the profession must be freed from the ‘oppression of box-ticking and micromanagement’ to reduce the ‘huge unnecessary workload so we have time to treat patients holistically’.

Dr Buckman said there is some ‘sensible thinking going on’ at the DH around plans to tackle A&E pressure by integrating services but this was not grabbing headlines.

Dr Buckman said: ‘As we have over the last 65 years, doctors, nurses and other NHS staff can work together to find a way through the current challenges and continue to provide more and better healthcare, free at the point of delivery, accessible to all,’ Dr Buckman will say.

‘But not if the government insists on denigrating us and using the NHS as a political weapon as it has increasingly been doing over recent months. Speeches, spin and sound-bites really aren’t going to achieve anything beyond a bit of political point scoring.’

Dr Buckman said he would return to next year's LMCs conference as 'an ordinary member' after six years as GPC chairman. He thanked those who had helped him through 'some rotten and many good times'.

His future, he told the conference, was to 'go back to my practice and try to stop the government from bankrupting it'.

* Watch Dr Buckman's speech in full

* Watch an exclusive video interview with Dr Buckman

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