Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Put Patients First (RCGP Campaign)

We have just marked the first anniversary of the College’s “Put Patients First: Back - General Practice Campaign”, calling for an increase in the proportion of the NHS budget going to General Practice from 8% to 11% by 2017 and an extra 8,000 GPs for England by 2022. We are also just five months from a General Election so it is crucial that we keep up the momentum.

GPs have the most varied role in the NHS. We value the relationships we develop with patients over time and we put the quality of care that we deliver to our patients above anything else. We have a special role to play in the NHS because of our expertise as generalists and our location in local communities. Patients, especially the elderly, prefer to be cared for in the community, avoiding, wherever possible, trips to A&E or costly hospital admissions. We are experts in managing long-term conditions and multi-morbidities.

If we invested in General Practice, over three million patients a year could be treated more cost effectively by GPs in the community rather than in A&E. Vulnerable patients could be cared for at home, where they prefer to be treated, and the pressure on Secondary Care would be eased in the process. But at a time when we should be spending more on general practice, we are cutting back. The share of the NHS budget going to general practice fell from 10.7% to 8.4% between 2005 and 2012.

At the same time, demand for GPs’ services has increased. GPs manage 90% of all patient contacts in the NHS and we make a mammoth 360,000 patient consultations a year - 60,000 more than even five years ago. With a growing and ageing population, patients with multiple and complex illnesses are growing in number, yet the chronic shortage of GPs is making it difficult for us to care properly for our patients.
Around 80% of GPs say they are insufficiently resourced and even lack enough GPs to provide high quality care for their patients. The pressures have become so great that many talented, dedicated GPs are retiring early, going abroad or taking up other careers. More than 1,000 GPs will leave the profession each year by 2022 – and we are not attracting sufficient numbers of medical graduates into General Practice to stem the flow.
Despite the problems currently besetting our profession, we must ‘big up’ General Practice for the fantastic career that it is and encourage more medical students to become GPs. We also need to make it easier for GPs who have spent time away from practice to return by reducing the amount of red tape with which they are currently confronted.

Our proposals to increase the NHS budget for General Practice are winning support in high places. NHS England’s ‘Five Year Forward View’ published recently assesses how to set the NHS on a financially sustainable footing for the future. It calls for funding to be shifted from hospitals back into GP services in the community, for the number of GPs in training to be expanded and for incentives to encourage more GPs into under-doctored areas.

The three main political parties must now get behind this and make it happen. They are making noises in the right direction, but we need firm commitments - professional and public pressure on them can have an effect. We have already handed in a petition of over 300,000 signatures in support of Put Patients First: Back General Practice to 10 Downing Street and the three devolved governments. But we can still do more.
We ask you as medical professionals – and your patients - to support our campaign so that we can give patients in Devon the care that they need and deserve. You can find more information about the campaign here:

by Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs Council (extracted by the Devon LMC Newsletter December 15)

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