The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has called for an emergency rescue package to provide a solution to ‘crisis-torn’ general practice in the UK.
The RCGP’s chair Martin Marshall said GPs jobs are ‘largely undoable’ even prior to the COVID-19, adding that general practice is at a ‘breaking point’, with many staff members facing burn out.
Marshall has urged Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid and incoming chief executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard to implement a five-point recovery plan for general practice in the UK.
Data shows that consultations hy GPs have been rising since last summers, increasing above historic levels since the end of April this year. In June 2021, consultation rates were 11% higher than in June 2019 and are at near record levels, despite the summer period historically being lower demand.
Although consultation rates are rapidly rising, the number of fully qualified GPs in England has dropped while the population grows, with the number of full-time equivalent GPS falling by 4.5% between September 2015 and March 2021.
On top of that, six in ten GPs say their mental health has deteriorated in the last year, with 63% saying they expect things to get worse over the next five years. In addition, a recent RCGP survey found that 34% of GPs expect to leave within five years, with a quarter citing stress and burnout as the reason why.
The five actions included in the recovery plan call for:
- A ‘ramping up’ of efforts to deliver the target of 6,000 more full time equivalent GPs in the next three years, as laid out in the 2019 Conservative manifesto
- A system-wide programme to dispose of bureaucratic burdens and unnecessary workload by 2024
- Improving the recruitment and integration of at least 26,000 other members of staff into the general practice workforce by 2024
- Ensure that general practice infrastructure is fit for purpose by 2024 to allow GPs to deliver care safely from modern buildings and using reliable technology
- Boost GPs’ voices in integrated care systems in a bid to eliminate the waste associated with fragmented services and in designing care for the communities they serve.
“We need an expanded workforce with the appropriate support and premises if we are to improve access, reduce health inequalities, ensure patient safety, and give GPs more time to care for and build trusting relationships with their patients,” said Marshall.
“We are offering the new Secretary of State and the incoming leader of the NHS in England ready-made solutions to the problems that have beset general practice for more than a decade – our proposals will improve the care of patients for generations to come. We now need urgent action and for those solutions to be implemented,” he added.