GP leaders have said Jeremy Hunt’s latest speech introducing a chief inspector for primary care, tighter regulation on practices and the suggestion of a return to out of hours care provision is ‘extremely demoralising’.
Comments from the British Medical Association (BMA), Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the NHS Alliance called for more clarification on measures set forth by the Health Secretary.
The speech, to be given at the King’s Fund on Thursday, focuses on the role of GPs in current pressures in A&E departments.
The Daily Mail has quoted the Health Secretary as saying: “Everyone agrees that hospitals should only be a last resort for the frail elderly and that – for someone perhaps with dementia and other complex conditions – A&E departments can be extremely confusing places.
“But what alternatives do we offer? GP surgeries where it is often impossible to get an appointment the next day… Out-of-hours services where you speak to a doctor who doesn’t know you from Adam and has no access to your medical record.”
BMA GP Committee lead Dr Laurence Buckman said: “Recent attacks on hard working NHS staff and specific services have been neither helpful nor productive.”
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada said Hunt’s hints towards tougher regulations and Ofsted-style inspections are “extremely demoralising”.
Although she supports promoting quality in general practice she said: “This must be done without adding to bureaucracy or creating a crude system of inspection for primary care.
“Quite rightly there has been a lot of attention on the serious problems in A&E but we must also recognise that there is a growing crisis in general practice. We need to change to narrative from attacking GPs and focus on ensuring that primary care is properly resourced, thus relieveing pressure on other parts of the health services.”
‘Pragmatic approach’ needed
Dr Donal Hynes, vice chair of the NHS Alliance said the introduction of ‘Ofsted-style’ ratings must be agreed with patients and clinicians.
He said: “We would want to be assured that they are based on patient-centred measures in a manner that would make sense to the public, rather than a management set of metrics.
Dr Hynes said the new initiatives should not distract practices from their “core aim of responding to population needs”.
Dr Laurence Buckman said: “The new chief inspector of primary care must be closely linked to the Care and Quality Commission to ensure that the post operates in a co-ordinated fashion with the body undertaking the inspections.”
However Dr Buckman added that the BMA will “need to see the details of the government’s plans”.