With the announcement of the new GP contract negotiated by the BMA and NHS England, there has been a slew of responses.
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.
Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund said: “The contract is a promising early sign that the Government and NHS England are making good on the commitments in the NHS long-term plan to shift resources to primary and community care. It is the biggest reform of general practice in over a decade and could bring significant benefits to patients.
“The new deal is welcome recognition of the pressures facing general practice and signals a fundamental change in the way that GP services will be delivered, with teams of professionals including pharmacists, physiotherapists and paramedics working with GPs and practice nurses to provide care to patients.
“As well as providing additional funding for new staff, the contract requires practices to work together in new networks to share staff and provide a wider range of services to patients. The timetable for implementing these changes looks extremely challenging and it will be important that general practice and community services are supported to put these plans into practice.”
Dr Graham Jackson, Co-Chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: “Today’s announcements outline a potentially very exciting future for primary care and one that will be changing rapidly over the next few months. Clinical commissioners will be instrumental in supporting the ongoing development of primary care networks (PCNs) working with colleagues to make these changes happen and get the best outcomes for patients. As a GP and a clinical commissioner I am really pleased to see a cogent and substantial boost for PCNs and the potential they have to support resilience in primary care. It makes absolute sense to share and provide services over a larger footprint than just a single practice, this will lead to a better range of services delivering care closer to home.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard welcomed the focus on collaborative working, whilst being clear that recruitment and retention is incredibly important: “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.”