LMC lists GP services that could pause this winter amid workload crisis

GPs in Devon are to present local health officials with a list of services that could be suspended if practice workload hits unsafe levels this winter - amid warnings of an ‘impending crisis’ for the area.

GP workload warning (Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

Devon LMC warned in July that general practice was set for an exceptionally busy autumn-winter period, with its workload indicator - the GP Alert State (GPAS) system - predicting that over a third of surgeries would be operating at ‘unsafe levels’.

The LMC suggested in a report that suspending the QOF and local enhanced services work could be ‘quick wins’ to free up GP capacity - and promised to draw up other measures to support practices.

GPonline understands that the LMC is now finalising the list of activities it wants to see suspended for practices that report 'red' or 'black' alerts - and will pitch this to local NHS chiefs.

Practice workloads

The move comes after RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall called on the government to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy in general practice to help GPs spend more time on direct patient care.

Devon LMC chief executive Robert Fancy told GPonline that he has devised a plan for a national roll-out of the GPAS system following ‘very high levels’ of interest from around the country - and is currently sourcing funding.

Following a report by the LMC which showed that 43 practices in the county could be 'in crisis' every week by Christmas, Devon's GP leaders concluded that 'a defined package of contractually compliant options' was needed to allow certain activities to be paused.

The report said: 'Relaxations of LES activity and suspension of QOF are obvious quick wins in terms of freeing up capacity as demonstrated throughout 2020. More detail is needed and consideration for other practice services that may be appropriately stepped down.’

GP bureaucracy

The GPAS tool, launched in February 2020, helps to show when work levels are dangerously high and practices require support - with ‘red’ and ‘black’ alerts signifying immediate action is needed.

GPs in neighbouring Cornwall are also feeling the burden of heavy workload, with the county's LMC last week warning that general practice was ‘on the brink of crisis’ and may not cope with a surge in COVID-19 and flu cases. It said backlogs in secondary care were leading to a huge rise in GP enquiries and appointments. 

Giving evidence to MPs last week, RCGP chair Professor Marshall called for a drive to reduce GP workload. He called for a reduction in bureaucracy in 'ticking the boxes' for QOF, along with CQC checks - and he suggested there was potential for an expansion of non-medical prescribing.

Earlier this month the BMA called for an 'immediate suspension' of QOF with income protection - and warned that PCNs, who have been tasked to deliver COVID-19 booster jabs, are ‘not the panacea for all primary care ills’.

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