General Practice – What’s The Long Term Answer?

A long-term solution is needed to improve general practice, according to experts. Speaking this week at the BMA’s conference of English Local Medical Committees in London, it was argued that the government needs to do more than simply ‘sticking plaster solutions’ to help with general practice. Instead, the government need to direct NHS funding towards long-term general practice improvements.

The future of general practice

General practice has been crying out for improvements, and Prime Minister Theresa May is hoping to deliver through the announcement of a 10-year plan. The plan will include £3.5bn of annual funding given to primary and community care, which will be in addition to the £2.4bn a year announced in the GP Forward View. However, it’s been highlighted that GPs will only receive about 7% of the overall funding, despite doing 90% of the work.

Among the proposals for the funding is the launch of ‘rapid response’ teams, which will serve communities by providing urgent care through doctors, nurses and physiotherapists in a bid to treat people in or near their homes and keep people out of A&E. Trials are being carried out where GPs are assigned to care homes, which will include out of hours services.

The allocation of funding remains largely unclear, with only the top headlines being revealed at this stage. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, aims to put a bigger focus on improving technology and creating larger practices. With the future uncertain for general practice, it’s difficult to know what lies ahead.

Why change is needed

Changes to general practice have been a concern for doctors and health professionals for years. The demands of a typical GP surgery are increasing, with a lack of funding and increases in patient demand leading to many doctors suffering from mental health issues, junior doctors shying away from full-time hours and a shortage of doctors to fill recruitment gaps.

Last winter proved to be a particularly difficult time for the health service. GPs have been pledged extra support this winter, although short-term solutions such as these can’t fix an ongoing problem. It’s feared that additional funding will help primary and community health services to keep up with demands, but not necessarily change the way things are done to provide people with better healthcare solutions.

Better practices are needed to ensure that GPs remain safe, and that their services are also safe for patients. Overworked, tired and stressed GPs are at risk of making mistakes, or burning out so that they’re unable to work any longer. Changes to the current 10-minute appointments model need to be addressed, while others have suggested that GPs have capped patient lists to ease workload.

Mr Hancock has proposed a number of changes, from video consultations to video prescribing – with a strong emphasis on prevention rather than cure. It’s also hoped that stress amongst GPs can be avoided by providing variety through portfolio work. Providing out of hours services also provides flexibility, helping doctors to choose work that offers a better work/life balance. The long-term solution to improve general practice is built upon many factors, with the hope that new government proposals will put GPs at the heart of it.

In the meantime, you can take a look at our current out of hours vacancies and find out more about out of hours working and how it could benefit your career as a GP by reading the rest of the articles on our blog.