Viewpoint: Dr Kailash Chand: CQC figures revealing poor practices are misleading

The CQC figures revealing the poor quality of one in six surgeries are at best misleading and will be used by the media as a stick to beat the profession writes BMA deputy chairman Dr Kailash Chand.

Dr Chand: 'Publication of these CQC figures during a GP recruitment and retention crisis is a disaster.' Pic: Michele Jones

I’m not defending bad practice but the figures do not take into account the differing circumstances in which the GP practices operate. The variation in funding of practices, the deprivation factor of population, poor standard of premises, the nurses shunning general practice, all of these factors are ignored.

The funding crisis and increased demand for care means general practice as patients know it in England is under severe threat of extinction. We can no longer guarantee a future for general practice as our patients know it, rely on it - and love it.

General practice has been a cornerstone of the NHS since it was formed over 65 years ago.

If more GPs were recruited, trained and ready to see patients tomorrow, there would not be the physical space available for them all to work

The UK family doctor service is admired around the world – for its equitable, cost effective and leading edge provision of locally accessible high quality care and doctors remain our most trusted professionals.

However the environment that GPs are striving to provide services in is increasingly challenging.

GPs from across the country are telling us that they are fire-fighting to provide the services that their patients want and care that they are not always able to do so.

In England alone, NHS England estimates that at least 340 million patient consultations are now undertaken every year; this is up 40 million since 2008.

The numbers of elderly and vulnerable patients, the heaviest users of the NHS, continues to increase. By 2011 the number of people aged over 65 had reached 10,494,000 and by 2031 the NHS Confederation predicts that this figure will reach 15,778,000.

The 10 minutes available to these patients in a standard GP appointment simply isn’t long enough.

Our members tell us that even if more GPs were recruited, trained and ready to see patients tomorrow, there would not be the physical space available for them all to work.

Many practices are old and need investment to create more rooms for clinicians to see patients, or to simply make them fit for purpose.  They need to have the right facilities to support the delivery of flexible, community-based services that local patients need and practices are being asked to provide.

The increasing demand and workload pressures are leading to low morale and stress, causing many GPs to leave the profession or to consider early retirement.  GPs and their practice teams must have greater support to deliver high quality services that meet the requirements of all their local patients.

That is why the BMA has launched a campaign in support of GPs and their practice teams and together with our members we are calling for long-term, sustainable investment to be made in GP services throughout the UK.

This must include: long-term, sustainable investment to attract, retain and expand the number of GPs; long-term, sustainable investment in the wider practice team to meet the needs of patients; long-term sustainable investment in the premises that GP services are being provided from and the facilities that they are able to offer.

Without addressing the fundamental issues, we are in danger of undermining general practice to a level where the medical students and junior doctors will not take up the vocation and general practice could be in danger of terminal decline. Publication of these CQC figures during a GP recruitment and retention crisis is a disaster.

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