Dr Baker used her RCGP annual conference 2015 speech to warn that the government's plans for seven-day general practice are 'totally unrealistic' and a 'recipe for disaster'. Forcing an already overstretched profession to deliver services 12 hours a day, seven days a week could lead to the collapse of existing GP services, she warned.
Seven-day NHS plans make it 'virtually impossible to recruit and retain GPs – in direct contradiction to the government’s stated aim of increasing the GP workforce by 5,000', she said.
Condemning the 'new deal' for GPs unveiled earlier this year by Jeremy Hunt, Dr Baker sent out a stark warning to the health secretary: 'If you don’t shore up existing GP care as your top priority, not only will you not get a seven-day service, but you won’t have a five-day service either – because you will have completely decimated general practice.'
The college chairwoman criticised 'blatant bigotry' in medical schools by tutors who dismiss general practice as dealing with 'a parade of trivia'.
GPs under pressure
CQC inspections on general practice are 'not fit for purpose', she told the conference, and should be paused pending an urgent review.
The NHS remains stuck in a 20th century mindset, she added, hitting out at continued underinvestment in general practice services while hospitals receive the bulk of NHS funding.
Citing college research showing that numbers of patients with multiple long-term conditions will rise by 1m to more than 9m in total by 2025, Dr Baker warned that the NHS could not cope without a shift in resources to primary care.
'It is not an exaggeration to say that the future survival of the NHS itself depends on how we respond to the explosion of people living with serious, long-term multiple conditions,' she said.
'We need an NHS that’s properly set up to meet the complex clinical needs of people in the 21st century.
'If we were starting from scratch and inventing the NHS today for the 21st century, the starting point would inevitably be networks of local clinicians who could provide person-centred care, close to people’s homes, in a cost-effective way.
'We all know what this is – it’s called general practice.'
General practice, she said, was the 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' of the NHS: 'It is our only hope.'
But Dr Baker warned: 'Those who run the NHS are collectively stuck in the mindset where everything is seen from the perspective of single conditions and the acute sector.
'General practice, and the millions of patients who rely on it, are now paying for this spectacular failure to see the bigger picture. Patients are having to wait too long to see their GP. And GPs, who are working 12 hours or more in surgery, are exhausted. Putting GPs in this situation poses a real risk to patient safety.'
New deal for GPs
Dr Baker set out a 'real new deal' for GPs, based on five key points: more resources, more GPs, less red tape, the latest technology and infrastructure and freedom to innovate.
The college chairwoman said: 'I know the last few years have been tough – extremely tough.
'So many colleagues I’ve spoken as I’ve travelled around the UK over the last twelve months are tired, angry and frustrated.
'But, we’ve shown that if we stand together and campaign for a better future for our profession, we can make the politicians sit up and listen.
'Despite the immense pressure we have been put under, general practice is still standing.
'That’s thanks to your incredible resilience in the face of adversity, and the fantastic commitment you have to your patients.'
Photo: Gevi Dimitrak