The government must halt its obsession with seven-day GP practices and act on the funding and recruitment crisis that is “a hurricane threatening to undermine the fabric of the NHS,” GP leaders have warned.
Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the British Medical Association, told a doctors’ conference this week that patient demand, declining recruitment and lack of investment in general practice could “cause the collapse of the wider NHS”.
One in three GPs are planning retirement in five years and 20% of trainees are planning to practice abroad, according to a BMA survey of 15,000 GPs published earlier this year, while the numbers of NHS doctors working as GPs has shrunk from 34% to 25%.
Nagpaul says the government needs to “wake up to this alarming reality, not only because it will fail dismally in its manifesto pledge for 5,000 extra GPs, but crucially because unless it turns this around we won’t have a comprehensive general practice service in parts of the UK”.
It’s “absolutely pointless” to promise 5,000 extra GPs over the next four years if 10,000 are lost to the same period, he argues.
The Conservatives have promised patients in England access to family doctors between 8am-8pm seven days a week by 2020. But given the recruitment crisis, seven-day services will damage quality care “by spreading GPs so thinly and will reduce GPs' availability for older, vulnerable patients”, according to Nagpaul.
On the funding front, the BMA has long lamented that GPs get only a small proportion of the NHS budget, and is currently running a campaign to boost cash-flow from 8.3% of the total to 11% by 2017.