Struggling GPs must have emergency powers to close practice list, warn LMCs

GP practices facing severe pressure must have the same powers as A&E units to declare a major incident and close their lists without fear of sanctions, LMCs have warned.

Dr Bruce Hughes: Struggling GPs need emergency powers (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Bruce Hughes: Struggling GPs need emergency powers (Photo: JH Lancy)

Practice lists should be closed ‘when [GPs] alone decide it is unsafe to take on more patients’, according to a motion backed by representatives at the 2015 LMCs conference.

GPs also voted that practices should be able to declare major incidents and capacity shutdowns, with powers similar to those available to A&E departments.

Proposing the motion in London for the 2015 LMCs conference, Devon LMC’s Dr Bruce Hughes said that both GPs’ and the public’s health was being put at risk because GPs were being forced to take on ‘more and more patients’.

GP crisis

He said: ‘We’re facing a parallel workforce-workload crisis; our patients are ageing and facing more complex conditions – all this is impacting on the health of GPs.

‘GPs are becoming ill, they are handing back contracts, closing their practices and leaving the profession in droves – and it’s impacting on the care we can provide.’

He accused the major parties of playing ‘political ping-pong’ with GPs – where ‘unfortunately, we are the ball’.

The motion requesting emergency shutdown powers was narrowly passed, with just 53% of delegates voting it through.

GP patient list

Speaking in favour of the motion, Dr Peter Medcalf from Northamptonshire said: ‘GPs must have the right to decide when to close their lists and they should not be forced to take on more patients against their better judgment.

‘It is unacceptable that NHS England can make doctors take on more and more patients without recognising the effects this will have on service providers and the patients already registered with them.

‘For the sake of patients and doctors, they should have final say on whether their list is open or closed.’

But Kent LMC’s Dr Sajit Shetty spoke against aspects of the motion. ‘What would happen if multiple practices declared a major incident and shut down at the same time?’ he warned. He also questioned the criteria under which practices would decide to shut down.

GPs also demanded increased funding to allow them to offer standard consultation times of 15 minutes.

Calls for GPs to be resourced to limit their maximum list size to 1,500 patients per whole-time equivalent GP were passed as a reference.

A final part of the motion which called ensure GPs do not work beyond the legislated hours of the European Working Time Directive was lost.

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