THE BLOG

GPs Call on Politicians to Show Some Backbone Post-Election

06/05/2015 21:15 BST | Updated 06/05/2016 10:59 BST

The NHS and the services it funds have been the biggest issue of this election throughout most of the campaigning period. In recent weeks it's been really positive to see and hear from voters who appreciate that the health system is up against it and want politicians to do something about it.

Looking at general practice, my own corner of the healthcare system, I have been thinking about what specifically would influence how I cast my vote. Of course by 'corner', I actually mean the part that delivers 90 per cent of NHS activity with only eight per cent of the NHS budget.

So what does get my vote?

A government that values and takes care of its frontline workforce; which shows everyone how good they are; and which doesn't forever tell them how bad or inadequate they are. We need policies that don't perversely incentivise or bully staff. And a restoration of trust and goodwill in return for a cull of bureaucracy and an end to hyper-regulation, which - as with hyper-inflation - can only lead to bad things.

It's a simple equation: respected and supported staff deliver dignified, quality care to patients.

Politicians need to stop trying to integrate organisations and start integrating the care that is provided. An honest discussion with patients about what they want isn't a political liability, it is a political necessity. Only after that has happened can we do the blindingly obvious and enable increased consultation time for patients with their GPs.

Londonwide LMCs' figures show there are 7,113 GPs in London, including those working full-time and part-time. Each of the last four years has seen double figure net closures of practices and of the remaining practices over 200, or 15 per cent, are single-handed, with a third of GPs planning to retire in the next three years. The devastating effect of this on local communities, without new bodies coming in to take their places, takes little imagination.

Westminster should unblock and free up general practice by ensuring every practice is funded properly, investing in community services, letting hospitals do what hospitals do best and allowing them get on with it in return for block contracting. And if they do that, we can abolish the crazy internal market which currently sucks out masses of cash that should be directed to patient care. Government should be funding practices based on a measure of staff to patient numbers to ensure safe comprehensive care. The comparison is teacher to class size ratios in education.

Throughout the election campaign all of the parties have spent lots of time talking about empowering patients. Why not truly do it by giving them safe control of their own medical records via an app on their phones? And backing it up with a decent health education programme in schools and communities. If politicians show some backbone on this, they could finally remove the NHS Spine and replace it with a monument to failed attempts at centralizing and controlling personal data - far cheaper and more useful.

I want patients to get the general practice care they need. I want them to have time with their doctors and I want their doctors to be unburdened from bureaucracy to be able to look after their patients properly. I want doctors to have proper access to the diagnostic and community services so that those who really need them get the care they need.

Through the election and beyond I urge you, as a voter, to think about your community, think about general practice and think about what you want to happen after placing your cross on the ballot paper. The real work to improve and support primary care starts from 8th May and doesn't have an end date!