New contract could help general practice 'finally turn a corner' but workforce plan still desperately needed.
Responding to news of a new contract for GPs negotiated by the BMA and NHS England, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Investing in general practice is investing in the entire health service – and this new contract promises to do just that, in the best interests of our profession, the sustainability of the NHS, and the care we deliver to more than a million patients a day across the country. If implemented correctly, this contract could cultivate a profession that future doctors are eager to join, and where existing GPs want to remain – and can enjoy - working.
"We are particularly pleased at the news that a state-backed indemnity scheme will be introduced from April this year, providing all GPs in England with full insurance cover that is on a par with the arrangements already in place for our hospital colleagues.
"Escalating indemnity costs have become a huge burden for GPs at all stages of their careers, and some GPs have even cited this as their reason for leaving the profession. The College has been campaigning for a state-backed scheme for a long time, and we are extremely pleased that the Government has kept the promise first made by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at our annual conference in 2017.
"While our prime objective must remain the recruitment and retention of thousands more GPs, we also welcome the focus on collaborative working with a range of highly-skilled members of the GP team, to support our work and free up our time to deliver care to patients who need our expertise – as well as with other practices in the same locality.
"Primary Care Networks have been shown to be beneficial in terms of increased peer support, building resilience in the system and pooling resources. It is vital that these networks are GP-led, prioritise continuity of care for those patients who need it, and are implemented in a way that minimises disruption for hard-pressed GPs and our teams and protects the ability of GPs to deliver care in the way that best meets the needs of their local communities.
"General practice has been at a crossroads for several years: workload in general practice has escalated both in volume and complexity recently, yet the share of the NHS budget our service receives is less than it was a decade ago, and we have fewer GPs than we did two years ago – as a result, GPs are working unsafe hours, and patients are waiting longer and longer for an appointment. The RCGP has been making the case for many years that if action isn't taken, general practice will crumble, and the rest of the NHS behind it.
"We hope that today's announcement of the new contract will mean that we can finally turn a corner towards making general practice sustainable for the future. Our colleagues on the BMA's GP committee have done an excellent job of negotiating with NHS England to secure a deal that is in the best interests of our profession and our patients.
"Now we need the forthcoming NHS England workforce strategy to deliver viable measures to continue recruitment efforts into general practice, and initiatives to keep more GPs working in it."