General practice ‘in crisis’, Yorkshire GP warns as doctors meet for national conference

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GENERAL practice is on the “brink of collapse” as GPs struggle to cope with increased demand caused by a recruitment shortfall, doctors have warned.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee, accused politicians of turning a blind eye to “spiralling pressures” affecting the health and social care systems.

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In a speech to the national conference of Local Medical Committees, which represents grassroots GPs, Dr Nagpaul will highlight mounting workloads and staff shortages.

GP practices have become “frighteningly vulnerable”, he said.

He will tell delegates of the conference, which is being held in Edinburgh today and tomorrow, that the only solution is to increase NHS funding to adequate levels,

His concerns are being echoed by Leeds GP Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA GP committee, who warned that general practice is now “in crisis”.

“There aren’t enough GPs being recruited and when GPs retire, the increased workload bears down on fewer shoulders,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“Leeds is no different, and similarly Yorkshire where there is acute pressure particularly in recruiting new GPs and some practices have had to close.

“It’s a crisis and we have been making this absolutely clear for a number of years now. The situation has got worse rather than better.”

Dr Vautrey said GPs felt “undervalued” which has led to young doctors instead opting to work in hospital practice, or looking for careers abroad.

The latest warnings come just months after The Yorkshire Post revealed the NHS’s drastic plans to reshape the health service with an emphasis on primary and community care, which professional bodies claimed would put increased pressure on already over-stretched GPs.

The Sustainability and Transformation Plans, which aim to reorganise the NHS to make £22bn worth of savings nationally, are putting a greater focus on general practices taking on appointments currently done in hospitals.

Across Yorkshire, schemes have been laid out to teach medical staff additional skills, including community pharmacists and physicians’ assistants, to deal with many cases currently coming through GP’s doors.

In his speech to the conference in Scotland, Dr Nagpaul will highlight the “avalanche of work” and a service that is “several thousand GPs short”, adding: “The plight of general practice remains parlous and on the brink of collapse.

“Individual practices have become frighteningly vulnerable, with one in 10 practices surveyed by the BMA saying they’re not sustainable and we’ve witnessed record numbers of practice closures – not surprising with one in three practices unable to fill GP vacancies.

“Even a seemingly secure practice is just one partner away from retiring to set off a domino effect which could lead to collapse.”

The Government has a target of recruiting 5,000 new GPs by 2020.

Dr Nagpaul will call on GPs to “resurrect their Darwinian survival instinct”, but will add: “The real solution is a political one – in which politicians must end their callous disregard of the health needs of citizens in an NHS that shamefully trails Europe in its funding, numbers of doctors and infrastructure.

“The only solution is for government to increase NHS funding to adequate levels, in which general practice receives a fair and larger share.”

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