Call for post-pandemic GP rescue plan

AN "emergency rescue package" is needed for general practice to save doctors from burnout and protect patient care, the Royal College of GPs has said.

College chair Professor Martin Marshall said general practice is now "at breaking point".

He called on the new Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid and NHS England to "save" the specialty by implementing the College’s five-point recovery plan.

Professor Marshall said: "The launch of our five point action plan sends out an SOS for general practice – and crucially, it also provides realistic solutions for halting the crisis and protecting the care of our patients and the wider NHS by investing in the hardworking GPs and their teams who provide that care."

General practice in crisis: an action plan for recovery sets a deadline of 2024 and calls for:

  1. "ramping up" of GP recruitment
  2. measures to reduce GP bureaucracy
  3. improvements to recruitment and integrations of at least 26,000 other members of staff into the GP workforce
  4. upgrades to GP infrastructure, including buildings and IT
  5. GPs to be given a “strong voice” in the design of integrated care systems.

Data from the Research and Surveillance Centre, run by the College and Oxford University, shows consultations by GPs have been rising since last summer, and have been above historic levels since the end of April this year. Consultation rates were 11 per cent higher in June 2021 compared to June 2019, and are at near record levels despite the summer historically being a period of lower demand.

The College has said that, as demand grows, the number of fully qualified GPs in England has fallen. It reported that the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs fell by 1,307 (4.5 per cent) between September 2015 and March 2021.

Professor Marshall added: "We need an expanded workforce with the appropriate support and premises if we are to improve access, reduce health inequalities, ensure patient safety, and give GPs more time to care for and build trusting relationships with their patients."

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