Viewpoint: Dr Maureen Baker: Blueprint for a positive future for general practice

Ensuring that everyone can rely on the care provided by their local GP practice is fundamental to maintaining a safe, effective and compassionate NHS writes RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker.

Dr Baker: 'We have a strong record of providing exceptional patient care.' Pic: RCGP
Dr Baker: 'We have a strong record of providing exceptional patient care.' Pic: RCGP

But in recent years, overstretched GP surgeries have been struggling to cope with rising demand for care and we know the public are worried about the future of their local services.

We have already come a long way in making people – politicians and policymakers included – aware of the pressures we are facing through our landmark Put patients first: Back general practice campaign, and thanks to all of you who have supported our work this far.

More positive future for general practice

Building on this, our latest College document, the Blueprint for building the new deal for general practice in England, sets out a comprehensive plan for delivering a more positive future for general practice.

We shared this with the new government following the election outcome. It has been discussed with both health secretary Jeremy Hunt NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, who have responded positively.

At last week’s NHS Confederation conference, Mr Stevens quoted from the Blueprint in his keynote speech, saying that the RCGP has made a ‘compelling case’ for increasing investment in general practice.

The Blueprint sets out five actions that must urgently be taken in order to strengthen general practice for the future.

These are:

  • Investing 11% of the NHS budget in general practice – including an emergency stabilisation fund to support practices most at risk of closure;

  • Growing the GP workforce by 8,000 – including stepping up efforts to boost GP recruitment, retain the current workforce, and make it easier for GPs to return to practice;

  • Giving GPs time to focus on patient care – including a policy of testing every new NHS initiative against how it will impact on GPs’ time and workload capacity;

  • Allowing GPs time to innovate – including giving practices funding to pilot the employment of pharmacists within GP teams; and

  • Improving GP premises – including investing in new diagnostic technology and IT systems.

We believe that the Blueprint is a means of turning the aims of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View into a reality.

Being a UK- wide College, we are also working on similar papers in the devolved nations: A Blueprint for Scottish general practice is the working title in Scotland;  the working title for the Welsh document is Actions for a brighter future for patients in Wales, and the working title for the Northern Irish document is Delivering change for general practice: A strategy for Northern Ireland.

We know that when GPs and their teams are given the resources, time and space to do their jobs properly, we have a strong record of providing exceptional patient care that serves as the cornerstone of our NHS.

  • Dr Baker is RCGP chairwoman and a GP in Lincolnshire.

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