CALLS for GPs to become salaried employees of the NHS, rather than independent contractors, offers further evidence that both the management – and funding – of the National Health Service is far too convoluted and complicated for its own good.
Yet, while the IPPR think-tank argues that such a move would ‘let doctors be doctors’, it is effectively a rejection of Andrew Lansley’s reforms nearly a decade ago that empowered GPs to commission local services and so on.
But the primary issue – in this instance – is not contractual terms of employment. It is the fact that there is a chronic shortage of GPs – and other medical professionals for that matter – to meet the needs of an ageing population.
And with more than one third of patients saying they had to wait more than a week for their most recent appointment, it increases the pressure on the Government to recruit the 6,000 full-time doctors that Boris Johnson – and others – promised during the election.
As it will take time to train prospective doctors to the requisite standard, and then convince them that general practice can be a fulfilling vocation, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock shoud be taking action to halt GPs leaving the profession in record numbers.
After all, the statistics now speak for themselves. For the first time in this country’s history, the total number of people aged over 65 is now in excess of all children aged 16 or under. Yet the number of practising GPs per 100,000 people is now at its lowest since 2003 – further reason why Ministers now need to inject some urgency into their response.