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Doctors battle burnout as 100 full-up GP surgeries apply to shut their doors
Jackie Grunsell, NHS General Practitioner
'GPs are underworked and overpaid' the tabloid headlines would have us believe. So why has doctors' union the British Medical Association (BMA) felt it necessary to call a special conference later this month - specifically to discuss the crisis in general practice?
The fact is that funding for general practice has dropped dramatically.
GPs undertake 90% of patient contact that takes place in the NHS. We are constantly told more services have to be, and are, provided in the community. Yet funding has fallen from 11% of the NHS budget to a historic low of 8.39%.
As well as more work being piled on general practice, there are fewer GPs to do it.
The Royal College of General Practitioners has estimated an extra 9,540 GPs are needed nationally to cope with the demands of a growing and ageing population with more complex health needs. Yet burnout means a third of GPs say they want to retire in the next five years according to a BMA survey.
And they aren't being replaced. Until 2013 almost all GP trainee vacancies were filled, but in 2104 over one in ten was left empty. Growing numbers of practices are failing to recruit new GPs.
GPs want to provide safe, high-quality care for patients. The stress of feeling unable to give patients what they need - while fending off a barrage of increased paperwork and tasks not directly related to patient care - has forced 100 practices to apply to NHS England to close their surgeries to any new patients. They feel unable to cope with the existing workload.
Despite this, patients' satisfaction with their GPs remains high in surveys. The quality of care given has not been shown to have fallen - yet. But the situation is unsustainable.
A call for GPs to do what the junior doctors have done, and take industrial action to demand the government increase funding and resources, has to be a central part of the BMA's conference. This is only way we can maintain the standard of care as it is, or ever hope to improve it.