Winter pressures could overwhelm general practice, warns RCGP conference

RCGP conference delegates have warned that general practice could collapse in the face of a tough winter this year.

Dr Naomi Beer (Photo: Pete Hill)

In a debate on the funding of general practice, the audience was asked whether practices had sufficient resources to provide safe patient care in the event of a major health emergency – the answer was an emphatic ‘no.’

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said a major flu outbreak, when every part of the NHS was stretched, could be disastrous for healthcare services.

‘If there is a major emergency, how can practices cope? How can we continue to provide safe patient care? What activities are we doing now that we can safely stop in order to ensure that we continue to provide safe patient care?’

Dr Baker asked whether suspending the QOF or CQC inspections were potential ways of freeing GPs to cope with the extra work.

East London GP Dr Naomi Beer, whose Jubilee Street Practice in Tower Hamlets has been facing closure from the loss MPIG funding, told the conference that the fight for fairer funding of general practice was only just beginning.

Dr Beer said the practice had calculated that GPs received less than £2 ‘in their pocket’ for each patient contact – strong evidence of their value for money.

‘I think we have been left behind in the funding arrangements because we have failed to define what we do in ways that the managers understand.

‘We do not have to sit dumbly and let our paymasters define everything about what we do. We, and our patients, need to define our vision about our future.’

Dr Patricia Wilkie, chair and president of the National Association for Patient Participation, said patient groups were preparing to help practices by promoting self-care during the winter but needed to know more about the funding of general practice in order to help fill gaps.

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