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Foundation of general practice ‘at risk of collapse’

BMA warns of unmanageable workloads and practice closures

The foundation of general practice in the UK has serious structural faults and it at risk of collapse, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.

Speaking to BMA members at its annual conference in Brighton, Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee UK chair, said GPs are reporting unmanageable workload pressures with hundreds of practices closing and doctors leaving the profession.

“We’ve managed demand, enabled efficient working elsewhere in the system, directed patients to the right specialist service, been innovative in care pathway design, and above all managed clinical risk on behalf of the NHS as a whole,” he said. “But when nearly 40% of GPs intend to quit direct patient care in the next five years, and over 90% of GPs are reporting considerable or high workload pressures, we know that the foundation of general practice has serious structural faults.”

Vautrey also cited figures showing that over a 1,000 GPs have referred themselves to the new GP Health Service in England because of stress and mental health problems.

In addition, hundreds of practices have closed and over a million patients have been forced to look for a new GP service.

“GPs’ work ethic and dedication to their patients has been exploited through a decade of underfunding and soaring workload pressure, with the assumption that the GP practice will always be there to pick up the workload that others say they cannot or will not do,” Vautrey stated.

He also criticised how new specialist care home and private hospitals can open up in an area “without any warning or planning”.

“The foundation of general practice on which the NHS is built is seriously at risk of collapsing and if the NHS wants to survive in to old age we need urgent action now,” he warned.