GPs are being scapegoated for a government failure to fund the NHS properly, causing winter chaos in hospitals including the Horton, a senior doctor says.
Objections to an order by PM Theresa May that GPs must open until 8pm seven days a week or lose funding were met with fury by Dr Paul Roblin, GP advisor to Oxfordshire County Council and local medical council head for Berkshire. He said: “My over-riding conclusion is that they are using GPs as scapegoats instead of taking responsiblity for the crisis in the NHS.
“A year of GP care in England costs the government on average £142 a year (about the same as one hospital out-patient appointment) and each patient now consults their GP six times a year on average.
“This represents phenomenal value for money but is delivered at a cost. The role of being a GP is now so stressful that no one wants to do the job.
“There exists the very real prospect that the whole GP system will collapse in the near future and with this the NHS. The current crisis in the health service extends well beyond A&Es, with all parts of the NHS, including GP surgeries, working as hard as they possibly and safely can to keep up with demand.
“Much of the pressure on A&E has nothing to do with general practice. Life expectancy has risen so much the NHS has to deal with vastly more problems of being old with multiple chronic diseases compared to when I first became a doctor 40 years ago.
“Patients are facing delays in being admitted to hospital because of a chronic shortage of beds, as well as delays in discharging elderly patients due to a funding crisis in community and social care,” he said.
“This is not the time to deflect blame or scapegoat overstretched GP services, when the fundamental cause of this crisis is that funding is not keeping up with demand.
“This is evidenced by the fact the UK spends less on health and has fewer doctors and beds per head than other leading countries.
“Rather than trying to shamelessly shift the blame onto GPs, the government should take responsibility for a crisis of its own making and outline an emergency plan to get to grips with the underlying cause, which is the chronic under-resourcing of the NHS and social care,” said Dr Roblin.