New NHS chief must seize opportunity to ‘reset relationship’ with GPs, BMA warns

NHS England has the perfect opportunity to ‘reset its relationship’ with general practice through the appointment of a new chief executive following months of paused meetings, the BMA has said.

Relations between the two organisations broke down in May when the BMA's GP committee voted to pause all formal meetings with NHS England and demanded an explanation over a ‘tone deaf' letter that instructed GPs to offer face-to-face appointments for all patients.

Three months later the BMA insists that it is still up to NHS leaders to ‘fix a broken system’ which is failing patients and doctors – and has previously set out clear steps that it wants both the government and NHS England to undertake in order to better support the profession.

But following the appointment of Amanda Pritchard last week, the BMA has told GPonline that it has asked for a meeting with the new chief executive to discuss how it can restore formal meetings.

GPonline understands that the BMA is seeking an acknowledgement from senior NHS leaders that they will ‘change their approach’ after unhelpful communications during the pandemic, particularly those related to face-to-face appointments, led to some GPs and practice staff receiving abuse.

Meetings suspended

A BMA spokesperson said the GP committee was still looking for NHS England to meet the conditions set out in the emergency motion it voted on in May - but confirmed it would not be seeking additional action.

Along with calling for all meetings with NHS England to be suspended, the motion also expressed a ‘lack of confidence’ in the organisation's leadership and called for an explanation and public action from the government following the letter on face-to-face appointments.

It also demanded an urgent meeting with the health and social care secretart to discuss the ‘spiralling crisis’ in general practice. 

The BMA spokesperson said: ‘Fundamentally we are looking for an acknowledgement from the NHS’s senior leadership that they will change their approach.

‘The appointment of a new NHS chief executive is therefore an opportunity for the NHS in England to reset its relationship with general practice and we have asked to meet with Amanda Pritchard to discuss how to do this. We hope that positive action will come about as a result of that meeting.’

A Wessex LMC newsletter sent on 22 July revealed that GPC England had seen ‘some positive signs’ and a ‘a change in tone’ from senior NHS England executive directors, with communications taking a ‘more factual tone’.

COVID jabs

However, it noted that a recommendation was not brought to return to formal meetings with NHS England and Improvement after the July GPC meeting due to frustrations around ‘flawed and overly bureaucratic’ enhanced services - and refusal to let GPs provide COVID-19 jabs at individual practice level.

The newsletter added: ‘This is not a situation that we want to continue and we recognise that getting to a place where we are able to negotiate effectively on behalf of the profession with an NHSEI that clearly demonstrates that it understands and acts on the needs of general practice is in the best interests for everyone, not least our patients.’

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said last week that Ms Pritchard - the first female to land the role - had to demonstrate a willingness to 'stand up to government' and show that she is 'on the side of hard-working healthcare professionals'.

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