BMA hits out over GP contract and recruitment crisis

Doctors from across the health service have backed GPs in condemning the government's decision to impose changes to the 2013/14 GP contract.

Dr Alex Freeman: GPs 'squeezed harder and harder'
Dr Alex Freeman: GPs 'squeezed harder and harder'

Delegates at the BMA annual representative meeting on Wednesday backed a motion deploring contract changes imposed by the health secretary earlier this year. The meeting agreed the changes were likely to compromise patient safety and quality of care and warned they could trigger a crisis of recruitment and retention in general practice.

Earlier, outgoing GPC chairman, Dr Laurence Buckman, told the conference that the NHS was 'heading for the buffers'.

‘GPs won’t hang around forever while competing politicians try to climb the greasy pole on doctors’ backs,' he said.

Proposing the motion, Dr Guy Watkins, representing LMCs, said there was a real impending crisis in general practice and the unilateral imposition would worsen the profession’s relationship with ministers.

He said GP ‘deserve, expect and demand’ more respect from government.

‘The imposition is clearly bad for GPs who have lost resources and freedoms,' he said, ‘but it is also bad for our patients; an imposed contract with damaging targets, damaging and ill considered tasks and financial penalties for behaving appropriately.’

The imposition flew in the face of the message of the Francis report, to put patients above targets, added Dr Watkins.

Later, representatives overwhelmingly supported a further motion calling for sustainable, long-term investment in general practice. It ‘deplored’ the lack of investment in primary care despite ‘the ever increasing shift of work from secondary care’.

Dr Alex Freeman told the conference general practice was being ‘squeezed harder and harder’, with 90% of NHS patient contacts but under 9% of funding, and falling.

She said instead of merely shifting funding from secondary to primary to follow the work, at a time when hospitals were also being squeezed, what was needed was ‘substantial, new, long-term, investment’.

‘It is unfair for us to remove money from secondary to give to primary care because we will just cause more problems.’

The meeting voted to agree that ‘the impending crisis in recruitment and retention of GP partners has now arrived’.

Further motions passed by representatives condemned the transfer of responsibility for paying employers’ locum pension contributions to practices; and called for more GPs to enable longer consultations than the ‘outdated and inadequate’ 10 minutes.

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