Government has left GPs unable to guarantee timely, high-quality care, says BMA

Government inaction has left general practice unable to guarantee 'timely, high-quality care' for patients, the BMA has warned, as 10,000 people signed a petition demanding funding for more GPs.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)

A petition, launched as part of the BMA's 'Support your Surgery' campaign, sets out how underfunding of general practice and a chronic shortage of GPs is affecting the profession and patients.

It offers a reminder of why general practice services have been provided in a different way during the pandemic, with an increase in remote consultations - but reiterates that more than half of appointments have been delivered face-to-face throughout the pandemic.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Vautrey said the 10,000 signatures collected in less than a month reflected patients' frustration at the impact of underfunding, a workforce shortage and intense pressure on general practice during a year and a half of the pandemic.

GP funding

He called on the government to 'listen and take action' hitting out over failures to tackle underfunding of general practice or deliver on promises to build the GP workforce.

Dr Vautrey said: 'We should not have to have a petition about England needing a properly funded GP service. Patients should be getting the level of care they deserve and GP practices must be properly resourced to give it.'

However, the Leeds GP warned: 'Every patient deserves timely, high-quality care. The government has currently put us in a position where we can no longer guarantee that, which isn’t fair to the exhausted staff who continue to go above and beyond, or, most importantly, to our patients to whom we have a duty of care.'

The comments come just days after health and social care secretary Sajid Javid was condemned by GP leaders as out of touch with reality for saying it was 'high time' GPs offered face-to-face appointments to all patients who want them - and claiming that the UK was almost 'back to completely normal' after a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BMA petition

Dr Vautrey added: 'The fact that more than 10,000 people have signed our petition in less than a month goes to show how important a well-resourced GP service is to our patients, and the government needs to listen and take action.

'GPs and their teams have continued to see patients face-to-face throughout the pandemic, but this has been made increasingly hard – not just because of the pandemic but also because of rocketing workloads, chronic staff shortages and a lack of funding.

'We’re acutely aware of how frustrating this is for patients who just want timely access to their GP practice, whether that’s a telephone or face-to-face consultation; we are equally exasperated with the current situation, and the government’s so far futile attempts to make any difference.'

GPonline reported earlier this year that general practice appointments in June this year were up almost a third compared with June 2019 - before the pandemic - once COVID-19 vaccine work was factored in.

GP leaders earlier this month condemned the 'barrage of vitriol' the profession has faced in the national media over face-to-face access - warning that the constant attacks at a time when the profession is delivering the vast majority of the COVID-19 vaccine campaign, facing intense workload and a GP shortage had left general practice on its 'last legs'.

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