The new leader of the UK's over 40,000 GPs has told them he will aim to "forge a renewed relationship with government" to demonstrate how investing in general practice is key to managing escalating pressures in the NHS.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, newly-elected chair of the British Medical Association (BMA)'s General Practitioners Committee (GPC), tells the GPs in a letter that their practices "form the bedrock of the NHS in providing personalised care to one million patients every day."
That UK GPs provide "extraordinary care" is highlighted in the latest comparative studies of health systems across the world published by US thinktank the Commonwealth Fund, and they do it "on a modest investment of less than 10% of the NHS budget," Dr Nagpaul writes.
Yet, he adds, "the value we bring is being undermined. Rather than celebrating the success of UK general practice, it is utterly disheartening that GPs have instead endured continued media and political assault, misrepresenting our professionalism and commitment and illogically scapegoating us for problems in other parts of the NHS, such as accident and emergency waits."
General practice is also experiencing progressive disinvestment, and at a time when GPs are being expected to take on significant additional work - "and, in England, dealing with the aftermath of an unnecessary and wholesale NHS reorganisation," he says.
It "would be unwise" for the government to lose the profession's support at a time when many of its key policies, including moving care into the community and the development of clinical commissioning, fundamentally depend upon the engagement and commitment of GPs, he warns.
With 2014-15 contract negotiations about to get underway, GPC will argue for the removal of elements of the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) that do not benefit patients, the removal of bureaucratic and non-evidence-based demands on GPs' time and for reducing their workload to manageable levels, says Dr Nagpaul. He tells the GPs in England that they will shortly receive a brief email survey to provide the Committee with a snapshot of workload pressures caused by the contract imposition.
"At a local level, it is also important that you work with your local medial committee [LMC] and clinical commissioning group [CCG] to challenge inappropriate workload. Undertaking additional work that is not resources hugely diminishes our ability to meet the core care needs of all our patients," he writes.