NHS funding hike must bring permanent end to GP crisis, warns GPC chair

Government plans to increase NHS funding by £20.5bn over the next five years must deliver an 'effective, long-term cure' to the GP crisis, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told LMC leaders on Friday.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey

Speaking at the English LMCs conference in London, the BMA's top GP demanded an end to 'sticking plaster solutions' for general practice in England.

In a speech just a day after prime minister Theresa May set out plans to use the NHS budget increase to deliver a £3.5bn real-terms increase in funding for primary and community care, Dr Vautrey warned that this must translate into 'real, additional and recurrent investment' for general practice.

The GPC chair told LMC delegates that NHS winter pressure is a 'mythical diagnosis' - warning that for general practice the crisis is year-round.

GP crisis

He called on NHS England to 'get its act together' to tackle Capita's disastrous handling of primary care support services, and warned health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to back up warm words about general practice with action.

Dr Vautrey said GPC lobbying had begun to open politicians and NHS officials' eyes to the dangers posed by the rapid growth of GP at Hand.

'The pressure is on 12 months of the year, day after day,' Dr Vautrey told the conference. 'We know and experience this daily pressure in our surgeries. We know and experience the pressures on our patients as they need more care from us but we struggle with the capacity to be able to respond.

'And we know and experience the impact on our staff and colleagues, too many of whom are becoming ill themselves as they struggle with unsafe workload.'

Primary care funding

He revealed that the GPC has scheduled meetings with DHSC officials to 'drill down into the detail' of how the £3.5bn pledged for primary and community care will benefit GPs - and pointed to warnings from health economists that the investment was not enough to do more than allow services to 'stand still'.

The GPC chair hit out at how GPs have been forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops to access new funding promised to the profession, and warned this must not continue.

'We cannot accept essential funding used for another hundred micro schemes that wrap us up in bureaucracy, leave practices wondering where the money has gone and patients no better off,' Dr Vautrey said. 'We must see new funding used effectively, with practices in control so that we can start to address workload pressures and deliver a safer service to our patients.'

Dr Vautrey pointed to the 'unmitigated disaster' that has unfolded since Capita assumed control of primary care support services in 2015, and highlighted its most recent high profile problem - a failure to send thousands of patients letters about cervical screening.

Outsourcing

'How bad can it get before NHS England gets its act together and sorts out a mess that they created?  They can outsource a service but they cannot outsource their responsibility,' Dr Vautrey said.

Short-term solutions risk undermining general practice further, the GPC chair warned. 'We need nothing less than a properly funded NHS built on the solid bedrock of a thriving general practice,' he told LMCs.

An NHS England spokesperson pointed to GP workforce data out this week that show the decline in GP numbers has come to a halt.

The spokesperson added: 'The prime minister’s announcement of £3.5bn more for primary care and community care is another clear sign of the vital importance of these services and general practice will be absolutely central to the forthcoming long-term plan for the NHS.'

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