Dr Maureen Baker: We must not let Brexit and changes in government derail the GP Forward View

Last month the British public voted to leave the EU. In the subsequent weeks we have seen more political turmoil than some might expect in a lifetime.

We now have a new government, a new prime minister, a new chancellor and aside, from the health secretary who has stayed the same, we have a largely new ministerial health team in England.

All the uncertainty that comes from so many changes in such a short time will undoubtedly have implications. We don’t currently know what these are or what the extent of them will be, but we look to the new government for assurance that our patients – and our profession – will not lose out as a result, and that we will have a strong NHS for the future.

The college now has two priorities; firstly to keep up our pressure on NHS England and the DH to implement the pledges made in the GP Forward View; and secondly to ensure that migrant workers in the NHS – from Europe or elsewhere – feel valued and not at all unwelcome as a result of Brexit.

No place for racism in the NHS

Just this week we have heard reports that since the referendum, 47% locum GPs repsonding to a survey say that racist incidents have increased since the Brexit vote. This is unacceptable. There is absolutely no place for bigotry or racism within the NHS.

The NHS is globally renowned for delivering excellent patient care, free at the point of need for anyone who needs it, and general practice is at its heart, delivering 90% of patient contacts for little over 8% of the overall budget.

We and our teams see over 1.3m patients every day, and according to the latest GP Patient Survey 92% of them have trust and confidence in their family doctor. That is a statistic to have great pride in.

Migrants from within the EU and beyond play a pivotal role in delivering this service – and the college is immensely grateful, particularly at a time when we are facing increasing patient demand and a severe shortage of GPs and other practice staff right across the UK.

Not only do we – whether we are from the UK, Europe, or further afield - deserve to be treated with respect, but we deserve the tools and resources to do our jobs well in the best interests of patient care.

But our recent analysis of the GP Patient Survey has shown that this year, on 69m occasions, patients will wait longer than a week for a GP appointment - and this is set to rise to 100m by 2020 if trends continue and nothing is done to curb them.

More resource for general practice

This is a key reason why we must not let the GP Forward View fall through any gaps created through Brexit and the changes in government. And why we need the calls of our Put patients first: Back general practice campaign for more resources in general practice and more GPs to be recognised and acted upon in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We need urgent assurances that leaving the EU will not impede efforts to recruit, retain and ‘return’ the thousands of GPs, that it has been acknowledged are necessary to deliver safe patient care.

If you’re in England, please write to your MP to urge prime minister Theresa May to recognise the importance of general practice and implement the pledges made in the GP Forward View as a matter of urgency.

Likewise, if you’re in Wales we’d appreciate it if you could write to your new AM telling them about the crisis facing general practice, and in Northern Ireland we are asking patients and GPs to send a letter to their MLA asking them to put pressure on the Health Minister and ensure the government sticks to the promises made in the GP-led working group report.

And in Scotland we are working on a campaign to encourage the government to keep the promises they made to do with general practice - more news of that soon.

Only with a strong general practice service will the NHS be able to deliver the care our patients need and deserve.

  • Dr Maureen Baker is chair of the RCGP

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