Letters, calls & emails: Higher pay reflects benefits to patients

Dear Editor

The denigration of GPs by certain sections of the media is often divorced from reality.

For example, the recent Daily Mail headline, '£20 to see your GP in the evening', was based solely on a call from a local committee of GPs in East Yorkshire which had asked the LMCs conference to debate whether resources for routine care outside core hours should be charged to the patient.

The BMA is opposed to charging patients for NHS services and has defeated similar motions in the past.

The profession is not opposed to weekend and late-evening surgeries but primary care organisations (PCOs) have to put resources in place to allow this to happen. The new GP contract gave powers to PCOs to commission such services and the PCO should seek to integrate walk-in-centres and NHS Direct with primary care to resolve the issue to the benefit of patient and profession alike.

GPs are paid more, but their work has become more complex and intensive, as procedures previously done in hospitals are transferred to GP surgeries.

Practices are judged on the quality of care they provide - the higher the quality, the more money the practice earns. This brings benefits to patients: the control of high BP alone, using the best evidence-based care, prevented more than 9,000 episodes of ill health over a five-year period.

Before the new contract, the shortage of young doctors choosing to enter general practice, coupled with the rising number of early retirements by burnt-out GPs, threatened the existence of the traditional family doctor service.

Although there are signs that recruitment is improving, extending opening hours remains a workforce issue.

Dr Kailash Chand, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire.

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