GP services ‘at risk of collapse’ says leading Yorkshire doctor

Dr Richard Vautrey: GP services "at risk of collapse"
Dr Richard Vautrey: GP services "at risk of collapse"
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General practice is “seriously at risk of collapsing”, a leading Yorkshire doctor will tell a conference today.

Speaking at the BMA annual conference in Brighton, Dr Richard Vautrey will say for over 70 years general practice had been the foundation on which the NHS was built - caring for generation after generation, from cradle to grave.

But Dr Vautrey, who practises at Meanwood Health Centre, in Leeds, and is the chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, will say GPs are reporting unmanageable workload pressures, hundreds of practices have closed and 40 per cent of GPs intend to quit in five years. He will say: “If we cherish our NHS it’s time to Save General Practice.

“When over 1,000 GPs have referred themselves to the new GP Health Service in England because of stress and mental health problems, or when hundreds of practices have closed and over 1m patients have been forced to look for a new GP service, we know that the foundation of general practice is breaking down.”

Speaking before his speech this morning, Dr Vautrey said that the Government had promised an extra 5000 GPs - but there had actually been a fall of 1,000.

“We have actually gone backwards. This is because of the lack of confidence many young doctors have in the Government round general practice over recent years.”

“It means that when a GP leaves a practice it is increasingly hard to find another GP to replace them and that impacts on the ability of those left in the practice to offer appointments.”

Dr Vautry, who has practised in Leeds since 1994, said areas away from the cities, like Yorkshire’s coast and Lincolnshire, were having particular difficulties recruiting.

He said general practice had been undervalued and taken for granted “far too long” and GPs’ work ethic exploited, having to take up the slack for everything from councils cutting stop-smoking services to new specialist care homes opening “without any warning or planning.”

On Monday delegates roundly rejected a motion which could have seen patients charged for GP and hospital visits. Dr Vautrey said: “The BMA has had these debates before.

“We have democratically shown again that there is overwhelming opposition to charging within the NHS and the BMA is absolutely behind the publicly funded free at the point of care service and want that to be maintained for the next 70 years.”

Meanwhile the argument continues for GPs to get a better share of NHS funding. A report by the BMA last October suggested they needed an extra £3.4bn a year.

Dr Vautrey said Theresa May’s pledge to give the NHS another £20bn a year meant an average 3.4 per cent annual rise and was "a major shift in policy". But he added “Most economists feel that the NHS needs at least a four per cent increase each year.

“The Government is pledging 3.4 per cent and that might sound a small difference but actually it makes a big, big difference to what the NHS can do in the future.

“Since 2010 the percentage increase year on year has been much much lower than it ever has been since the advent of the NHS and that is what has caused the problems now.”