A new agreement for general practice is needed to take into account the ‘pace and scale’ of demand in primary care, and address the shortage of qualified GPs, the BMA said

Doctors meeting technology data

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called on the Government to begin negotiations for a new GP contract in England that reflects changed working practices in primary care since the onset of COVID-19.

The current 5-year contract for general practice was agreed in January 2019, with additional amendments negotiated annually.

However, Dr Farah Jameel, Chair of the BMA’s England GP Committee (GPC England) said: ‘Three years ago general practice—as indeed the world—was a different place.

‘For those of us working on the front line, the pace and scale of demand we are experiencing every day, despite these being intense back in 2019, are now on a level we have never had to deal with before.’

Profession needs a ‘fit-for-purpose’ deal 

A motion carried on Thursday called on the Government to join negotiations for a ‘refreshed, fit-for-purpose’ agreement to take the profession forward from 2024–2025, underpinned by an independent contractor model.

The motion also called for immediate support for practices in managing the backlog of patients, and laid out the Committee’s intention to begin plans for a profession-wide consultation on the future of general practice.

‘Throughout the pandemic, practices have put the safe care of their patients first, booking record-breaking volumes of appointments last year, with fewer GPs, and all while delivering the biggest vaccination campaign in history’, said Dr Jameel.

‘We continue to see a rise in demand from patients, many of whom are waiting too long for care as a result of the NHS being placed under demand across the board. This includes those who are on the now 6 million-strong waiting list for elective surgery or procedures, with 310,000 now waiting longer than a year and in need of ongoing care in the community.’

GPs feel undervalued 

Dr Jameel said that GP practices in England have lost the equivalent of more than 500 full-time, qualified GPs since the current contract was agreed.

She said: ‘We can’t ignore the profession’s sense of depreciating value within the NHS and in their communities, as professionals and individuals. Acts of abuse and aggression towards NHS staff add to this.

‘We also can’t treat the profession as if the pandemic didn’t happen and wasn’t real for them. The psychological impact on their morale and wellbeing has been enormous.

‘Going forward, a business-as-usual approach simply will not work, and with new leadership of our Committee, this provides an opportunity to renew, reset, and renegotiate a contract that delivers for both the profession and patients, and that addresses the key issue impacting general practice today: retention of our workforce.’

The Committee is set to seek the views of GPs on what they would like to include in a new contract, and how the Government could best support general practice.

The full motion said:

‘This Committee acknowledges the 2022/23 proposed contract amendments to the current five-year contract agreement and notes that further proposals are awaited and:

i) endorses the GPC England [GPCE] executive to negotiate additional support for general practices to deliver the recovery/backlog demands in 2022/23 and 2023/24

ii) calls on the Government to support negotiations for a refreshed fit-for-purpose contract agreement beyond the 5-year agreement ending in 2023/24, which supports the independent contractor model

iii) instructs GPCE executive to engage the GPCE committee in developing plans and begin a profession-wide consultation on the future of general practice.’

In December, GPC England announced that Dr Dean Eggitt, Dr Kieran Sharrock, and Dr Richard Van Mellaerts were to succeed outgoing executive members Dr Richard Vautrey, Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, and Dr Krishna Kasaraneni.

This article originally appeared on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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