Furious GPs need investment to end 'living nightmare', warns GPC chair

A decade of underinvestment has left general practice facing a 'living nightmare', the BMA's top GP has warned.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey demanded an end to 10 years of excuses from ministers, warning that despite GPs' resilience the profession is 'furious' at having to cope with unprecedented pressure from unsafe workloads, a workforce crisis, rising indemnity costs and a lack of investment.

In his speech to GP representatives at the UK LMCs conference in Liverpool on Thursday, the GPC chair praised the contribution of the GP partnership model in delivering general practice healthcare to communities, but warned that 'no partnership can survive if it's starved of funding'.

Dr Vautrey said: 'We’ve had a living nightmare. The reality for GPs is that we’ve had a decade of lean years to contend with, and enough is enough.

'Is it any wonder that the recently published British Social Attitudes Survey showed a fall in patient satisfaction? And what are patients dissatisfied by – staff shortages, long waiting times, government reforms and a decade of underinvestment. Well, as usual, GPs agree with their patients. But we’re not just dissatisfied by what’s being going on over the last 10 years, we’re furious.'

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Full coverage from the UK LMCs conference
Why the GP partnership model remains more relevant than ever

Dr Vautrey accused the Treasury of using 'excuse after excuse not to fund general practice properly'.

'We’ve had the international banking crisis in 2008, which limited the funding to the NHS, years of austerity, and now because of their uncertainties about the financial consequences of Brexit, rather than investing an additional £350m a week in to the NHS as everyone was promised by the leave campaigners, the reality is that Brexit is currently hurting the NHS, leaving it without the funding we and our patients desperately need.'

The GPC chair used his speech to warn that NHS doctors are being 'exploited by a system that relies on their goodwill, commitment and tolerance of the unacceptable' because of the intolerable workload they are being forced to take on.

Indemnity costs have left GPs effectively paying 'an indemnity tax of many thousands of pounds just for the privilege of working'.

Premises crisis

Premises are now 'one of the biggest problems facing practices', and have been the deciding factor forcing some partners to hand back their contracts, he said. Young GPs are 'steering clear' of the risks of premises ownership and the risks involved in long-term leases.

As reported by GPonline earlier this year, however, the GPC chair is looking to Scotland for a potential solution.

Dr Vautrey said: 'The [contract] deal in Scotland shows that something can be done about this. It is possible for the NHS to share some of the risk. With commitment, imagination and yes some resources, it is possible to stabilise practices that are on the edge of closure.

'Getting agreement on the premises cost directions in England after three years of discussion has been difficult, but we are under no illusion that this will solve the major problems facing so many practices, which is why we’ve been calling for a fundamental premises review.'

NHS foundations

Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Dr Vautrey said: 'As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday we should be proud of the fact that it’s resilient practice partnerships that have been the foundation on which the rest of the NHS has been built.

'It’s our direct connection with local communities, the fact that business owners are on the shop floor every day seeing and treating people face to face, our ability to independently advocate for our patients and stand up for them when needed, our resourcefulness and adaptability that can cope with all manner of changes and challenges, and even survive NHS England’s abject failure over more than two years to sort out the shambles that they created when they privatised our back office service.

'The partnership model enables all partners to have stake in the organisation, to have a voice and shape the services they provide to their patients. It creates an environment of colleagueship and mutual support for salaried GPs and locums. It provides for flexibility to enable portfolio working and for GPs to take on different roles at different stages of their careers and it provides the building blocks for effective locality working.'

Full coverage from the UK LMCs conference

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