College chair Professor Clare Gerada said an opportunity to be positive about the role of general practice had been turned into ‘yet another attack in the media on hardworking GPs’.
The health secretary is set to announce on Thursday a new chief inspector of general practice. He will demand that patients have a named individual doctor responsible for organising their care around the clock.
Professor Gerada said the college had hoped the speech could be a turning point for general practice, and welcomed the focus on personalised, continuous and integrated care.
‘But we need to change the narrative from attacking GPs and focus on ensuring that primary care is properly resourced, thus relieving pressure on other parts of the health services, particularly A&E,' she said.
‘Family doctors are working ever longer hours in surgery as they struggle to cope with ballooning workloads, at a time when the government is diverting more and more funding and resources away from general practice.
She added: ‘Quite rightly there has been a lot of attention on the serious problems in A&E but we must also recognise that there is a growing crisis in general practice.’
On inspections, Professor Gerada said the college would support ‘anything that will promote quality in general practice and are open to working with the government and the CQC to devise a system that is going to create the right incentives to improve standards, including whether there is a case for introducing a chief inspector of primary care.’
But, she warned, this must be done without adding to bureaucracy ‘or creating a crude system of overall ratings for GP practices’.
‘We need to be clear that any new system of inspection for primary care would be proportionate, supportive, influenced by the profession, and that it will add value to what the CQC is already doing. Rumours of Ofsted-style inspections and tougher regulation are unhelpful and extremely demoralising, especially at a time when GPs are already heaving under the pressure of a bureaucratic and stifling tick-box culture.’
She added: ‘GPs work exceptionally hard for our patients. We are the solution to problems in the NHS, not the cause.’