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General practice at risk of collapse but can be rebuilt, says BMA

by Valeria Fiore
26 June 2018

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The foundation of general practice has ‘serious structural faults’ and is at ‘risk of collapse’, a leading GP has said.  
Speaking to BMA members at its annual conference in Brighton, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that despite the challenges that general practices faces today, its foundations can be rebuilt to ensure the future of the health service.
The reasons behind the current state of general practice include unmanageable workload pressure, hundreds of practices closing and doctors leaving the profession, Dr Vautrey added.
He said: ‘For 70 years, general practice is where the vast majority of patient contacts have occurred, where generation after generation have been looked after by GPs and their teams, embedded within their community.’
Much more could be done to help general practices in England, Dr Vautrey said, and the BMA has outlined how any additional funding should be spent.
Dr Vatrey said: ‘In our report Saving General Practice we highlighted the need for real investment that provides an additional £3.4bn recurrently each year.’
Practice workload
Workforce plans need to be boosted to make sure practices can recruit and retain GPs and additional staff, such as pharmacists, who can work in practices to reduce workload pressures on GPs, ‘improve the safety of patient care and reduce medicine related adverse incidents’, Dr Vautrey commented. 
As at 31 December 2017, 1,009 clinical pharmacists – or 658 full-time equivalent (FTE) – were actively working in general practice, according to NHS Digital.
However, Dr Vautrey had told our sister publication Pulse that GPs had ‘big concerns’ about the schemes with no recurrent funding planned beyond 2020.
Areas of concern
Other areas to address, Mr Vautrey mentioned, include making sure practices receive better IT support and better primary care support services, ensuring the GP partnership model is enhanced and reinvigorated, addressing the issue of GP indemnity – currently creating disparities between GPs and doctors in hospitals – with the state-backed indemnity for England and Walesbeing hailed as a good step forward.
Concluding his speech, Mr Vautrey said that ‘a comprehensive system, that covers all GPs – locums, salaried and partners – as well as the staff who work in our practices, has to be put in place, and we will work with government to make sure this happens’.

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