General Practice in the UK is fast becoming unsustainable. Demand is rapidly outstripping supply.
How is the Department of Health responding to this crisis?
At a time when we need their leadership, support and backing more than ever, the Department of Health has chosen to make our lives increasingly difficult.
We are in urgent need of the resources and the infrastructure which would help us to meet rising demand and rising disease-burden.
Instead, we are getting a wave of CQC inspections, the purpose of which seems to be to highlight our inadequacies and shortcomings, coupled with a hostile mass-media who seem convinced that we are underworked and overpaid.
Rather than helping to shore up the frontline of the NHS, the Secretary of State is determined to drive forward plans to stretch a beleaguered workforce across a seven day working model (with no evidence that this will favourably impact on patient care).
The fuelling of demand, and the simultaneous degradation of supply, have led most to conclude that the Department of Health is intent on ‘breaking’ NHS General Practice.
If this is the diagnosis, then what is the management plan? How can we prevent ourselves from being broken in this way?
GPSurvival will look towards the following:
1) A New Patients’ Charter, the purpose of which will be to manage the public’s expectations of what NHS General Practice can deliver.
Let’s have a grown-up debate at a national level about where the responsibility of the NHS ends, and exactly what type of primary healthcare system the nation can afford. Let’s also restore some balance between patients’ ‘rights’ and their ‘responsibilities’.
2) Public health campaigns (mass media and social media) that target the real underlying causes of the increasing disease burden (obesity, alcohol, smoking etc.
We call for an end to irresponsible stories that simply ramp up anxiety amongst the worried well (typically followed by the postscript ‘if you’re at all concerned, go and see your GP’).
3) Top-down legislation that ends FP10 prescribing of medicines that are available over the counter
For example, if paracetamol is to continue to be supplied free-of-charge for children with minor illness, then allow it to be obtained free-of-charge from pharmacists thus removing the charade of the GP consultation and FP10 prescriptions.
4) A government-led campaign to tackle the proliferation of work that does not fall within the remit of general practice (but that we are still requested to fulfil by numerous agencies on a daily basis).
This work is typified by the ‘Get A Note From Your Doctor’ (GANFYD) requests that clog our in-trays, and also mission-creep from Occupational Health and Social Work tasks.
The list is by no means exhaustive, but it conveys some measure of the challenge.
We need to reclaim the job that we love, and to restore UK General Practice to its rightful place – the jewel in the crown of the NHS.