GPs overwhelmingly reject access plans as BMA holds emergency meeting

More than nine in 10 GPs say the government's access plan is an 'unacceptable' response to the current crisis facing general practice - as BMA leaders prepare for an emergency meeting within days.

BMA House (Photo: JH Lancy)

Almost 3,500 GPs took part in a snap BMA poll - with 93% rejecting a measures set out by the government and NHS England last week.

A separate BMA survey of more than 6,000 GPs in the week before the announcement was made found that more than half (54%) would consider leaving the NHS if the government did not provide them with the support they needed. A further 66% said that they would reduce their current hours.

Measures outlined by the government last week left GPs 'dismayed', after what had been billed as a 'support package' for general practice offered £250m in extra funding tied to demands for practices to deliver more appointments - at a time when the profession is already delivering more than ever before - as well as demands for more appointments face-to-face.

The BMA said doctors had made clear that the plans 'would increase workload and bureaucracy on GPs and their colleagues, reduce the number of appointments available, and impact the quality of patient care, while threatening to name-and-shame and penalise practices that need the most help'.

GP crisis

The BMA said the response to its snap poll was the 'clearest articulation yet that frontline GPs working across the country do not believe the plan will go any way to addressing the pressures facing general practice, staff and patients'.

An emergency meeting of the BMA's GP committee to be held within the next few days will consider results from the snap poll - and could prove the first step towards significant action.

GPs were asked by the BMA at the start of October what actions they would be prepared to take if the government failed to deliver adequate support for the profession in the face of rising workload pressure and a wave of abuse.

Actions GPs were asked to consider included leaving the NHS, refusing to deliver any consultations apart from face-to-face, refusing to participate in appraisal or reducing their working hours.

Shambolic plan

BMA GP committee England chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'This shows the profession has out-and-out rejected this shambles of a plan from the government and NHS England.

'If the health secretary thinks it is enough to provide a lifeline to surgeries this winter, let alone save general practice in the long-term, this response shows how wrong he is. The BMA provided the health secretary with a clear plan to help address the crisis in the short term, that could improve patient access and guarantee safe, high quality care, while also putting forward longer-term solutions.

'He chose to ignore that and instead we have a shambolic plan that has failed before it has begun. These survey results show how angry and despondent GPs are. Patient care will suffer because imposing these measures could very well result in doctors having to spend even more time on paperwork and admin.

'But it may also result in GPs leaving the profession all together. We have already lost the equivalent of more than 1,800 full-time, fully qualified, GPs in the last six years, and with a majority of family doctors now saying they could be forced to reduce their hours or leave the NHS all together because of a lack of support, the situation could get far, far worse. This will be on the health secretary’s watch. He will be to blame.'

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'Patients should be able to see their GP promptly and in the way they choose. Our plan will improve access and drive up face-to-face appointments - it includes providing a further £250m to GPs in order to boost capacity.

'We are also cutting bureaucracy and GP teams will be given targeted support which will take pressure off staff and free up their time so it can be spent with patients.'

The spokesperson also said 'the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) doctors in general practice increased between March 2016 and March 2021' - although over this period, fully-qualified FTE doctors actually fell by almost 1,000.

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