Practices could close half a day a week to help GPs cope, says former RCGP chair

All practices should consider closing their surgery doors for half a day a week to help GPs cope with rising pressure on general practice, former RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada has said.

Former RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada
Former RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada

Dr Gerada also called on GPs to ‘get political’ and follow the junior doctors' lead to make the government hear that their current working conditions are not fair and not safe.

Speaking at the Londonwide LMCs conference last Wednesday, she argued that GPs aged 55 and older have a duty to younger colleagues to remain in general practice ‘for another decade’, after watching over as the profession fell into its current crisis.

When asked by delegates whether she would consider handing in an undated resignation to take a stand against the intolerable pressures facing general practice, Dr Gerada said other actions should be considered instead.

She said: ‘What I want to do, is say we should shut half a day a week. We just shut the doors at lunchtime, like we used to. The way to argue it is it’s not fair and not safe to have a tired doctor.’

The move would allow GPs a much-needed chance to rest, eat, get together with colleagues – or even provide a break long enough to go to the toilet, she said.

Not fair, not safe

Speaking on a panel alongside BMA junior doctor leader Dr Johann Malawana, she said junior doctors had ‘shamed us into realising we can make a difference’.

She revealed that their fight had reinvigorated her, and inspired her to run for BMA council, on which she won a seat this month.

In a rallying call to the profession, she said it was time for GPs to ‘start politicising the NHS big time’ to ensure the system survives – a suggestion met with applause from delegates.

‘As chair of the RCGP, I fundamentally failed to do what Johann [Malawana] has done,’ she said, referring to the position she held from 2010 to 2013.

‘I failed to galvanise the profession during what was – and will always be – the worst disorganisation this NHS has ever had.

‘From the silent whisper to the chant down Whitehall of not fair, not safe – I think the junior doctors have managed to galvanise the profession behind a single cause.’

Speaking to Dr Malawana, she added: ‘I take my hat off to you. As a profession we should learn from junior doctors – I've learnt from you. You've taught us a new leadership.

‘I think the medical profession, my generation, has fundamentally messed things up – big time. We rode the wave of the best socialist country, and took it for granted.

‘We now, ladies and gentlemen, cannot retire – no matter how exhausted you are, you 55 plus GPs. You owe it to this generation to hang on for another decade, I'm sorry. We had the best of this country and we can’t now just walk away.’

An NHS England spokesperson said: 'GP practices are independent providers of primary medical services who are contracted by NHS England to deliver medical services in core hours for their registered patients. Core hours are defined as 8am-6.30pm weekdays, unless otherwise specified within their contract.

'Medical services to meet the reasonable needs of patients, including arrangements for accessing care in case of emergency, must be provided within core hours.'


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