Dr Mark Porter used his address to the BMA annual representatives meeting (ARM) in Liverpool to slam government plans to expand NHS services while cutting funding.
Dr Porter said: ‘Last Friday, we were told once again that GP surgeries will open seven days a week, 12 hours a day. They talk about GPs doing even more, when thousands already work in out-of-hours services, propping up the NHS. The government is trumpeting its "new deal for GPs". Who are they kidding? These proposals are neither new nor a deal, but old, repackaged ideas distracting from the central issues.’
Unveiling details of his 'new deal' policy package last Friday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt told GPs they would have to ensure a seven-day service in return for government support to recruit more GPs.
‘We’re promised 5,000 new GPs by 2020,' Dr Porter said. ‘How will these new GPs be ready to start work in five years’ time when it takes 10 years to train a GP? They don’t say. How are they even going to recruit more GP trainees when hundreds of existing training posts are still unfilled? They don’t say.’
He added: ‘When will they provide substance over rhetoric and recycled ideas, to focus on the detail of how they will support GPs already burnt out from overwork, in a service where more than 10,000 GPs are predicted to leave in the next five years? They don’t say.’
The BMA, Dr Porter said, supported high standards of care seven days a week.
‘Despite the lazy caricatures, last weekend, next weekend, and every weekend since we’ve had the NHS, we already have doctors of every level of seniority working in our hospitals in acute, emergency and urgent services. But ask any doctor and they will tell you that the NHS has never been resourced the same on Saturday and Sunday as it is from Monday to Friday.'
Dr Porter called on the government to show how it will pay for a seven-day service. ‘Show us something real, because all we’ve seen so far is the pursuit of easy headlines,' he said.
The union leader slammed government spending cuts. ‘They say they’ve protected frontline services. They’ve cut them,' he said.
‘General practices, year after year, have not even had their costs covered. Coming on top of a real GP recruitment and retention crisis, amidst tangles of bureaucracy and unfunded demands, it’s only the frayed but steadfast resilience of GPs that keeps the service going.
‘Cutting hasn’t worked. The government has to realise that it hasn’t worked. It needs to get real.’
The NHS, Dr Porter said, faced a 'real crisis'.
'We want to see clear plans, with clear funding for delivering improvements, free of dogma and ideology. We will work with any government that wants to truly protect and improve the NHS. You want a fresh start? We’ll start today,' he said.
'The government must get real. With urgency, with compassion and by offering a hand, not an axe, they can get real.'