Long-term, sustainable investment in general practice is a key solution to increasing pressure on the NHS, the British Medical Association (BMA) has claimed.
A major new campaign launched by the BMA aims to give patients a "true picture" of threats facing general practice across the UK.
'Your GP Cares' demands recognition from policy makers of the strain that general practice is under.
Challenges on general practice listed by the BMA include:
- Rising number of vulnerable patients: Across the UK there is a current and projected increase in the number of people aged over 65 and there are a growing number of patients with chronic conditions. These patient groups often need more time than the 10 minutes available to them in a standard GP appointment.
- Increasing workload, but no extra funding: The number of patient consultations in general practices are rising each year and are likely to continue to grow as the population grows and as more care moves into the community.
- Worsening state of GP practices: Many GP buildings are old and do not have enough rooms or space to cope with patient demand and expand services.
- Plummeting GP morale: As pressure mounts on general practice, six out of 10 GPs are considering retiring early, further worsening the workload crisis.
- More care for patients with chronic diseases, previously delivered in hospitals, is increasingly being provided through GP services. This combined with the UK governments’ desire to see more patients cared for at home or in the community, is raising demand for services in general practice.
To tackle these issues, the BMA is calling for long term, sustainable investment to:
Expand the overall number of GPs to attract, retain and expand the number of GPs and ensure patients are given the time, care and services they deserve.
Expand the numbers of other practice staff so each practice has enough nurses and other staff to meet the increasing needs of especially older and vulnerable patients.
Improve GP premises to ensure they are fit for purpose and ensure local practices have the resources they need to sustain current high levels of care.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, said: “The environment in which we work is becoming increasingly challenging. GPs across the country tell us they are constantly fire-fighting to provide the services their patients need, leading to exhaustion and stress.
“We are currently experiencing a workload crisis caused by rising patient demand, especially from an ageing society and those needing more complex care. The standard 10 minute appointment for these patients is simply not enough, yet increasing the time available to the 40 plus patients a GP sees each day will have yet another severe knock-on effect of more delays in getting an appointment.
“This has been accompanied by a steady decline in the state of GP buildings and some practices facing closure from funding cuts. It is no surprise that we are hearing from GPs that they are struggling to recruit new doctors and that the number of those wanting to enter the profession is falling, while increasing numbers intend to retire early."
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our BMA colleagues to fight this growing chasm between funding and workload.
"We hope that by working together, we will ensure that general practice receives the resources it needs to keep the NHS sustainable and deliver the care that our patients need and deserve.”