Editorial: GPs need support to be NHS's key cost-savers

This week GP reveals your reaction to the government's decision to ignore the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB) and freeze GP income yet again.

Ministers cut the DDRB's recommended pay increase and said practices could maintain income by making 1 per cent 'efficiency savings' - but you beg to differ. Less than 10 per cent of GPs believe this will be possible and around half say they stand no chance of being able to make such cuts.

Few practices have seen any real rise in income in the past five years and most have already implemented a raft of cost-cutting measures to cope with rising expenses.

In this respect, GPs are ahead of the curve. Ministers are only now recognising the importance of 'efficiencies', but in recent years general practice has proved it is one of the most cost-effective and successful areas of the NHS.

The government is obviously taking note. As GP has reported, it wants practices to be at the heart of the drive to make the NHS more efficient. This is not about cutting the cost of general practice, but about providing more services in primary care and new ways of delivering care. MPs from all sides recognise GPs are key to making this happen.

But for this to succeed, politicians must become better at actively engaging with GPs and encouraging them to embrace this vision. They have done a poor job so far.

MPs and policy mandarins are often too quick to indulge in a spot of GP-bashing, especially on the issue of pay, rather than developing a better understanding of what life is really like for UK practices.

In recent years, policy has revolved around getting GPs to do more work for no more money. This may score points in the tabloids, but it is of little help in real life. GPs need support, through proper funding and good quality policy-making, if they are to deliver the efficiencies the NHS as a whole requires.

As our survey shows, forcing practices to make yet more savings threatens the viability of some services at exactly the time the government is looking to GPs to innovate and provide more care closer to home.


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