Spiralling GP crisis triggers first GPC special conference in more than a decade

GPC leaders have called an emergency special conference for early in the new year to highlight the growing crisis in general practice.

The special conference is the first to focus on general practice since around 2003, in the run-up to the implementation of the current GMS contract.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline the conference reflected the severity of the growing crisis in general practice, warning that increasing numbers of GPs felt they could no longer work safely in the face of recruitment and workload problems.

'Day by day we hear practices struggling more in the face of recruitment and workload pressures. GPs are getting to the point where it isn’t safe to maintain practice in the way they want to. We have effectively a duty of candour to raise this and get the government and NHS England to respond.

GP crisis

'We really need to see serious action to tackle this situation,' Dr Vautrey said.

He said the timing of the announcement of a special conference was not intended to coincide with the government's spending review next week, but Dr Vautrey added that the review was 'an opportunity for the government to put their money where their mouth is'.

He pointed out that senior NHS figures had accepted that general practice had been underfunded for years. 'GPs are making clear they must act to avert the situation deteriorating further. If general practice falls over, the whole NHS falls over.'

Dr Vautrey said it was too early to know about the format of the event, but that it would bring together members of the LMC conference.

'This is a sign of the crisis in general practice, that local GPs and LMCs have been becoming increasingly concerned about. We need to bring GPs together to listen to their concerns and develop clear solutions and get the government to take these seriously so we can prevent the crisis from developing further.'

GP leaders have urged the government to use the spending review next week to restore a higher share of the NHS budget to general practice - a decade ago general practice received around 11% of the total NHS budget, compared with around 7% now.

Pressure on GPs

The DH did not comment on the GPC's decision to call the special conference, but health minister Alistair Burt told GPonline earlier this year that the government was working to arrest the decline in GP income as part of plans to reduce pressure on the profession.

Last month the BMA warned that GP practices faced 'serious viability concerns' because of falling income, although NHS England evidence to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body later warned that practices would be expected to make further efficiency savings in 2016/17.

Dr Vautrey said the conference had been triggered by a sense that it was 'just one thing after another' for general practice at the moment, with proposed seven-fold rises in CQC fees, workload concerns, fears over investment, and increasing problems with recruitment and the ageing workforce among other issues.

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