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GP leader warns that general practice is on the brink of collapse

The leader of the nation’s GPs has warned that general practice is on the brink of collapse as GP services face a climate of funding cuts, staff shortages and rising patient demand.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, made his comments in his keynote address to the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in Bournemouth.

Dr Nagpaul said: 

“Despite annual contract improvements1, general practice remains on the brink of collapse, since fundamentally demand totally outstrips our impoverished capacity. We’re carrying out 50 million more consultations in general practice compared to five years ago2, with more care moving into the community and a growing elderly population, yet latest figures show that today we have fewer GPs per head than then3.This mismatch has resulted in unmanageable workload with over eight in 10 GPs saying they can’t provide safe care, which is an indictment of government policy that supposedly promotes safety in the NHS4.

“In England, the government last year introduced its GP forward view investment programme, but this is operating with a wholly inadequate NHS pot. The individual GP practice unit is frighteningly vulnerable, with one in 10 practices surveyed saying they’re not financially sustainable5. A record number of practices closed last year which is not surprising with one in three practices unable to fill GP vacancies for 12 months6

“That's why the BMA GP committee is pushing for tailored resilience support to be rapidly deployed to practices that are at their most vulnerable, since each practice that collapses will have a domino effect on the rest of the local healthcare system. 

“The inconclusive general election result serves as a clear mandate to abandon the callous disregard of patients through austerity and cuts. A mandate to respect the intelligence of the electorate and not hoodwink them with populist propaganda and promises of being able to offer a consumerist service on Sundays when the NHS can't survive the winter without support from the Red Cross. A mandate to invest properly in the NHS and plug the £10 billion funding gap that separates us from European averages. And a mandate to finally give general practice the resources for GPs to provide safe quality care to patients and restore our professionalism.”

A copy of Dr Nagpaul’s speech can be read here.

Notes to editors

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK.

1.Details of the 2017 contract announcement can be found here

2. Figures relating to the 15% rise in GP appointments are from the Kings Fund and the basis for the 50 million increase in admissions comes from the previous estimate of 340 million consultations happening from the last estimate from NHS England. 

3. From recruitment figures released by the NHS over the past decade.

4. Figures from a BMA survey of more than 5,000 GPs, full details here. 

5. A BMA survey found that 300 GP practices were facing potential closure because of financial pressures, information here

6. A third of GP partners replying to a BMA survey stated that their practice had vacancies that were unfilled for 12 months or more. Survey results here.

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