The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have launched an action plan for recovery to tackle the challenges facing general practice, which they say is now at “breaking point”.
The RCGP say that the pressures on general practice even before the pandemic were immense and now these pressures are unsustainable and must be urgently addressed.
The new report, ‘General Practice in Crisis: An Action Plan for Recovery’, sets out five priority actions for the government to take to improve care for patients in general practice.
The five priority actions
The first priority is to recruit 6,000 GPs by 2024, a pledge which was published in the Conservative manifesto in 2019. To achieve this, the college want the government to establish an independent and authoritative NHS workforce planning body to meet growing demand and tackle health inequalities. They also ask the government to develop a new GP retention strategy which supports all GPs to remain in the workforce.
Secondly, they ask the government to undertake a system-wide programme to eradicate unnecessary general practice workload. By making regulatory changes, overhauling contractual requirements and improving communication the RCGP say GPs will have more time to care for patients and prevent burnout.
Thirdly, the RCGP state that at least 26,000 additional members of staff need to be brought into the general practice workforce. To achieve this, the recruitment process must be improved and extra resources and structured training must be provided.
The fourth priority is to ensure infrastructure within general practice is fit for purpose. They ask the government to invest £1 billion in the creation of extra space, tools and training, allowing GPs to deliver care in a safe way using reliable technology.
Finally, the RCGP say it is crucial that GPs have a “strong voice” in integrated care systems and in designing care for the communities they serve. The government must therefore involve GPs in decision-making in order to co-design best-practice principles with general practice staff and patients.
“Unless the Government acts now, patient care will suffer”
To improve the situation, the RCGP say the above targets must be met by 2024. Currently, targets to deliver more GPs continue to be drastically missed. The college now warn as the ageing population grows, health needs will become more complex. This is particularly pertinent as we emerge from the pandemic and have increasing numbers of people experiencing Long Covid and mental health issues.
Moreover, as pressures mount, a high number of GPs are quitting the profession. Indeed, a recent RCGP survey found that 34% of GPs expect to leave the profession within 5 years, which could mean a loss of over 14,000 GPs from the workforce.
The college are now calling on the government to act as a matter of urgency, as the report states: “Unless the Government acts now to tackle the challenges facing general practice, patient care will suffer. General practice needs an expanded workforce with the right skills, tools and premises to improve access, reduce health inequalities, ensure patient safety, and give GPs more time to care for, and build trusting relationships with, their patients”.