General Practice In 2019 – What Can We Expect?

If you ask the experts, they’ll tell you that 2018 didn’t bring much in the way of change for GPs. The same pressures still exist due to staff shortages and increased workloads – perhaps even more so following a particularly tough winter. With new long-term plans and possible work to ease some of the pressures placed on GPs, general practice in 2019 could bring some improvements. Will 2019 be any different for GPs?

What to expect from general practice in 2019

An increase in funding

This week, the Prime Minister launched the NHS Long Term Plan, a 10-year plan that looks to safeguard the future of the NHS by focusing on health prevention to help cut the number of hospital admissions and put the focus back on GP and community care services. However, many people are concerned that there isn’t enough staff to implement the plans successfully, given the number of shortages that already exist in the industry, particularly in the mental health sector.

Of the additional £20bn being allocated to help implement the Long Term Plan, £4.5bn will go towards general practice. This will help ensure a digital transformation for healthcare by increasing the number of video consultations that take place and provide patients with more flexible options towards their healthcare. The aim is to keep people away from hospitals and to help provide access to GP services that could detect potential illnesses and problems at an early stage.

Review into prescription drug dependency

This year, Public Health England will conduct an inquiry into prescription drug addiction in a bid to tackle the growing problem faced by GPs, which costs both time and money. With many patients being prescribed addictive drugs to tackle pain and mental health conditions, the initial problems can become worse as a result of their addiction. Hopes for the review include a greater recognition of alternative treatments, and making sure patients get enough support.

Merging general practices – better career opportunities or the makings of a culture clash?

Around 1,100 GP surgeries have closed since 2013, averaging around 200 a year. While this could mean additional opportunities for doctors, nurses and other health professionals due to larger teams and structures, there is the danger of increasing workloads as a result of growing patient lists.

Workloads will continue to increase

Even in light of additional funding, there will continue to be a shortage of GPs, as more and more doctors switch to part-time working and take early retirement. As the shift towards community health services takes shape, more will be expected from general practice – adding to workloads that GPs are already struggling to cope with. A decline in those applying to become GP partners means that existing partners are paid less than either locum or salaried GPs, leading to longer working hours. This decline could eventually lead to the partner model being reviewed in order to resolve the existing issues with this process.

Changes to medical indemnity

A recent announcement on changes to medical indemnity has shown that it’s not the good news that people were hoping for. GP indemnity will now need to come from existing practice budgets instead of from new income sources, according to current proposals which are still under discussion. Rising indemnity fees are a growing concern for GPs, but there are still hopes that the burden on GPs could be eased soon.

While some are sceptical that there will be little improvement on workloads and conditions for GPs, the NHS Long Term Plan could provide some interesting changes to community care and general practice in 2019. We’ll keep you up to date with these developments as they emerge on our blog.