Nearly 1,000 GPs warn NHS is 'on its knees' in letter to PM

Nearly 1,000 GPs are among doctors who have written to the prime minister to warn that the NHS is 'on its knees' and requires immediate change to protect vital services.

Letter to Downing Street (Photo: Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images)
Letter to Downing Street (Photo: Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images)

The letter, sent by the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) and signed by over 2,000 doctors - including 654 GPs and 312 GP trainees - highlights the devastating impact that 'years of underfunding' have had on the NHS.

Doctors are ‘working themselves into the ground’ to keep services afloat, it adds, warning that the haemorrhaging of frontline staff cannot continue.

The government’s pledge to boost GPs numbers and deliver 50m more appointments in GP surgeries each year by 2024/25 was confirmed in the Queen’s speech yesterday. Plans also included a new visa to ensure fast-track entry for overseas practitioners.

NHS pensions

The DAUK has demanded that the NHS is made ‘a key priority’ and listed a number of issues, including the pensions crisis, which must be addressed by Boris Johnson and his majority Conservative government.

It warned a lack of swift action would see the government ‘fail once again’ to deliver on its promises to increase numbers of doctors and nurses, in particular the pledge to deliver 6,000 more GPs.

The need to tackle recruitment and retention issues within the NHS was a key priority identified in the letters. This included a solution to the pensions crisis, which it said would only be resolved if the government abolished the punitive annual allowance and tax taper.

The association asked for NHS funding to be increased by over 4% per year, as opposed to the 3.1% that they say has been promised by the government. It said the current funding commitment would not be enough to maintain services and stop the NHS deteriorating.

NHS staff pay

The letter also calls for above-inflation pay rises to reverse 'sustained real-terms cuts to NHS staff pay', and for the unfair 'immigration surcharge' to be scrapped for health professionals coming from overseas to work in the NHS.

DAUK chair Dr Rinesh Parmar said: ‘The NHS must not be sidelined by this government whose only priority during this election campaign seems to have been "Getting Brexit done". This government must take heed of repeated warnings from doctors which so far have been ignored.'

Southampton GP and DAUK’s lead editor Dr Yasotha Browne, said: 'My biggest concern, if the government does not engage with the current situation faced by the NHS, is that we will only see a continuation of this crisis, which means unacceptable conditions for both patients and healthcareworkers.'

Thousands of doctors have reduced their working hours or refused to take on extra shifts to avoid tax penalties that can cost them more than they earn for taking on more work - deepening the NHS workforce crisis ahead of a winter expected to be among the toughest it has ever faced.

Meanwhile, the decline in the full-time equivalent (FTE), fully-qualified GP workforce has also piled pressure on GP services.

Earlier this week, RCGP chair Martin Marshall called on the government to deliver on promises to boost the primary care workforce and to invest in general practice.

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