GPs fear NHS 'rationing' post-COVID and demand control over workload

GPs fear NHS care could be 'rationed' as the health service works through the COVID-19 backlog - and are warning that practices must be able to manage workload by dictating the pace at which non-essential services are restored.

NHS under pressure (Photo: Nick Bostock)
NHS under pressure (Photo: Nick Bostock)

In the first motion for debate at the 2021 BMA annual representative meeting (ARM) next month, doctors will call for 'honesty with the UK public' over the health service's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doctors' leaders proposing the motion will demand that 'general practices should be empowered and enabled to manage their return to business as usual' - and will warn that 'substantial new additional financial investment is required to increase and support the necessary workforce, equipment, facilities and support services to achieve recovery of physical, mental health and public health services'.

They will also warn that 'all unnecessary bureaucracy and targets distracting from patient care should be suspended until the recovery is complete'.

GP workload

The motion draws heavily on wording proposed by the local medical committees (LMCs) conference, which reflects concerns put forward by senior GPs that go beyond the text set to be debated at the ARM.

The LMCs version highlights concerns among GPs 'that there will be some changes to what is available from the NHS which may result in rationing of care' and calls on national governments to set out clearly which treatments and services will not be available on the NHS and where patients should turn for help instead.

Like the motion set to feature in ARM debates, the LMCs version says GP practices must be allowed to 'dictate the pace' of a return to normal operation of non-essential services, and warns that doctors' leaders must ensure clinical time can be 'focused on delivering clincal care, not on meeting burdensome targets or indicators that do not directly promote safe, quality patient care'.

Calls for a reduction in bureaucracy come after NHS England said earlier this year that there were no plans for a repeat in 2021/22 of the suspension of QOF targets for general practice seen earlier in the pandemic.

NHS rationing

GPs have been clear that significant measures are vital, however, to address soaring primary care workload.

The RCGP called last month for an emergency support package to rescue general practice - warning the profession was at 'breaking point' and demanding measures to rebuild the workforce, cut bureaucracy, invest in infrastructure and ensure a strong voice for GPs in a changing NHS.

Official data have shed light on the intensity of workload in general practice - showing that practices delivered 31% more appointments in June this year than in the same month in 2019 - before the pandemic began - once COVID-19 vaccine appointments are factored in.

Warnings over workload also featured prominently in a first meeting between the BMA's GP leadership and new NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard last week.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

BMA demands emergency meeting with government over GP abuse

BMA demands emergency meeting with government over GP abuse

BMA leaders have requested an emergency summit with the government to discuss ‘unacceptable...

Millions of pounds lost to general practice as flagship recruitment scheme falls short

Millions of pounds lost to general practice as flagship recruitment scheme falls short

Tens of millions of pounds in funding from a flagship recruitment scheme set up to...

Man charged with assault after attack on Manchester GP surgery staff

Man charged with assault after attack on Manchester GP surgery staff

A man has been charged with assault after four members of staff at a GP surgery in...

General practice in Cornwall 'on the brink of crisis', says LMC

General practice in Cornwall 'on the brink of crisis', says LMC

General practice in Cornwall is 'on the brink of a crisis' and may not cope this...

Flu vaccine deliveries to start from this week, supplier confirms

Flu vaccine deliveries to start from this week, supplier confirms

GP practices will begin to receive delayed flu vaccine supplies this week after supplier...

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

GPonline provides an overview of the key guidance relating to coronavirus, including...