For many years, the family doctor has been the mainstay of the NHS. The continuity of care provided by local GPs who know their patients is being threatened by the latest Conservative top-down reforms to be imposed on the NHS.
David Cameron has now revealed plans for 7 days a week access to GPs. This would force GPs to operate on a rota system, making it harder to see the GP of your choice. It would also encourage larger GP conglomerates to move into the market providing GP services over a wider area with less personalised services. Already some American healthcare companies have started to buy up British GP practices.
Dr Maureen Baker, the Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, has said that GP services have been providing a “dam wall” protecting the rest of the NHS from the worst impacts of the government’s reforms, but that dam wall is now at breaking point with increased pressures on GPs and a workforce crisis.
Many GPs are taking early retirement to avoid the pressures being imposed by the government reforms, and recruiting full-time GPs is becoming increasingly problematic. Many people will have noticed the difficulties in getting a GP appointment, but the true extent of the crisis will have been hidden from them.
As Dr Baker said, “So far much of the damage to the dam wall has been hidden from the public – they see the flooding downstream in A&E departments and in hospital pressures – but they haven’t been aware that GPs, nurses and practice teams have been absorbing that pressure by trying to do more and more with less and less. But if we let that situation continue we will see whole chunks of the dam fall apart when practices have to shut their doors.”
Before the last election the Tories pledged that there would be no top-down re-organisation of the NHS. After the election David Cameron instigated a massive top-down re-organisation of the NHS, costing over £5bn and causing disruption and stress for all those working in the NHS. Now David Cameron is again trying to claim that the NHS is safe in his hands, but the reality is that the NHS is being torn apart to allow private companies to make profits out of healthcare.
Over the three years to 2012-13 the amount spent on GP practices has fallen by £400m in real terms to £8.5bn. Yet the number of consultations has been rising.
Dr Adrian Heald, Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Crewe & Nantwich and local hospital specialist said:
“GPs locally and across the UK are under huge pressure. The answer is to improve resources for Primary Care not to bash them over the head with 7-day working. Many of the problems which patients present to their GPs would be manageable Monday to Friday with the right systems in place and enough health care professionals to do the work.”
Cllr Sam Corcoran – Cheshire East Labour Group