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‘Rebuild general practice’ campaign launched by BMA and Jeremy Hunt

by Caitlin Tilley
21 March 2022

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The BMA and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt have joined forces to launch a new campaign titled ‘Rebuild General Practice’.

An ’emergency’ press conference today will kick off the campaign, which sees the unlikely pairing call on the Government to ‘rebuild general practice’ focused on recruitment, retention and safety.

It comes as new data revealed nine in 10 GPs think patients are not always safe at GP practices and seven out of 10 think this will get worse over time, the campaigners said.

Their poll of 1,395 GPs in Great Britain also found that:

  • GPs said staff shortages and not enough time in appointments were the main factors affecting patient safety.
  • 86% of GPs said they did not have enough time in consultations with patients.
  • 77% of GPs feel GP shortages put patient safety at risk.
  • 80% of Welsh GPs and 86% of Scottish GPs have felt anxiety, stress, or depression in the last year.
  • 79% of Welsh GPs and 65% of Scottish GPs do not think they have enough time with patients to allow for a comprehensive diagnosis for patient safety.

In England, GPs are seeing 45 patients a day. In Wales they are seeing 33 per day, and in Scotland, it is 28, they said. Meanwhile the safety limit, as recommended by the BMA, is 25 patient contacts a day.

Lincoln GP and BMA GP Committee England deputy chair Dr Kieran Sharrock will address the Government and say: ‘Please don’t claim credit for our successes while you ignore our cries of anguish about the greatest workforce crisis in NHS history. 

‘The scale of the exodus from general practice in the last few years scares me. The UK Government must act soon to stop the bleed, otherwise every family who relies on the NHS will find their basic healthcare needs under threat.’

He will add: ‘GPs are rushing headlong for the exit, and the UK Government is planning another review in England. This is fiddling while Rome burns. 

‘I implore our political leaders as the cost-of-living crisis bites: if you raise taxes to pay for NHS improvements yet fail to stem the flow of GPs out of local surgeries, standards will drop, waiting times will rise, and you will face a wall of public anger. We must rebuild general practice, together, now.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt – who is now chair of the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee – will restate is mantra that ‘the workforce crisis is the biggest issue facing NHS’.

He will continue: ‘We can forget fixing the backlog unless we urgently come up with a plan to train enough doctors for the future, and crucially, retain the ones we’ve got.’

And he will say that ‘as someone who tried hard to get more GPs into local surgeries – but ultimately didn’t succeed because the numbers retiring early exceeded those joining’, he is ‘passionate about fixing this’.

While Mr Hunt will acknowledge he and the BMA ‘haven’t always sat on the same side of table’, he is joining them and other GPs to ‘sound the alarm’ about the workforce crisis.

It comes as the BMA have repeatedly warned the workforce crisis is ‘not sustainable’ as GP numbers continue to decline.

And there will be a ‘huge risk’ to GPs as one million more patients will be on the waiting list for elective care even if NHS England meets its targets, a House of Commons committee has said.

Mr Hunt is currently leading an inquiry into the future of general practice, which heard from the Royal College of General Practitioners last week, who said that QOF should be scrapped.

It follows the 2022/23 GP contract update being imposed without agreement from the BMA, and the BMA has since revealed what amendments it requested for the 2022/23 GP contract.

This story was initially published on our sister title Pulse.