Prime Minister seeks to deliver on pre-election promise to GPs

22nd May 2015

PM seeks to deliver on pre-election promise to GPs


Following his re-election as Prime Minister, David Cameron has wasted little time in trying to deliver on his pre-election manifesto, with the promise of a ‘new deal for general practice’.

Earlier this week Mr Cameron announced plans to modernise the NHS starting with a transformation of Primary Care. His vision is for England to be the ‘first country in the world to deliver a truly seven-day NHS’.

In addition, the government is pledging to recruit, train and retain 5,000 new GPs and provide £8bn more a year funding for the NHS by 2020.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also suggested that in order to deliver a seven-day general practice, the government will need to reform the GP contract. Mr Hunt said ‘We need to look at the terms and conditions of general practice. We need to look at why GPs have so much burnout. We need to look at the contract – I’ve already got rid of about 40% of the targets in the GP contract which made GP work feel like piecework’.

Mr Hunt also added that ‘We need to look at the contracting arrangements around locums, look at the things in the GP contract that put people off becoming a GP’.

While these announcements all seem very encouraging and have in general been well received by Health leaders, there is still a lot of scepticism about whether these promises will actually be delivered by 2020 and even if they are, what positive impact they will actually have on GPs and their practices.

From both a personal and professional perspective, I have witnessed the increasing struggle that practices are facing due to underfunding and understaffing. Practices are struggling to fill posts with any GPs, let alone GPs with an ambition to be a partner of the practice. With many GPs retiring early or just leaving general practice for more attractive opportunities, I do wonder how easy it will be to recruit and retain 5,000 GPs and indeed whether this number will be enough to resolve the chronic shortage. Also, given how long it takes to train GPs, these solutions are unlikely to be of much help right now, when it is so badly needed. 

I’m not sure the announcement of a seven-day a week service has been greeted as positively by GPs, as it has been by the general public, with one anonymous GP Partner commenting that the opportunity of training to become a GP could be marketed as ‘a unique opportunity to work yourself to death’.  Understandably, trying to market training as a GP as a more attractive proposition and then telling them they will have to work every day of the week, is probably going to do just the opposite.

Although Mr Cameron has tried to allay these concerns, by stating that it is ‘not about NHS staff working seven days a week’ but about ‘different shift patterns’ I’m sure that makes all GPs feel much better!

The 40% reduction in targets that Mr Hunt referred to is perhaps slightly misleading in that in most cases it has not resulted in much less work, but has reduced real incomes. I am sure most GPs would like the contract review to provide a real cut in administration and stable core funding, so that they can focus on delivering the job they have trained for. For now though, GPs will just have to maintain the status-quo and await the outcome of the GP contract review.


Written by Luke Thomas, Director, Plus Accounting

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