MPs have been told that working in general practice is tantamount to being ‘pelted with rocks’, given the overwhelming workload and lack of available staff.
The comment came as part of the Health and Social Care Committee’s first evidence hearing today (1 March) for its recruitment and retention inquiry.
Addressing MPs on the impact poor staffing has at a practice level, Dr Emma Hayward, a GP and clinical teacher at the University of Leicester, said that GPs are ‘left carrying all the risk of system failures’, including patients being inappropriately discharged into GP care.
She informed the panel that a colleague had described this as feeling ‘like being pelted with rocks’.
Dr Hayward said that the resulting pressure on practices has meant that GP cannot perform as trainers, with medical students ‘deciding against general practice’ after working among a ‘stressed and burnt-out workforce’.
To this end, she said the Government must focus on making the profession more appealing, possibly by reducing the number of functions GPs are expected to deliver.
This all comes after the BMA warned that practices are offering more appointments ‘than they can safely accommodate’.
She later said that the Government should focus on addressing hostile or anti-GP messaging shared by the press and among politicians, suggesting this was negatively impacting retention.
‘Unjust’ and ‘untrue’ accusations against GPs, which may deter medical students, should be ‘swiftly and robustly’ corrected, she urged.
Last year, a study suggested that reducing negative attitudes in the media toward GPs was key to increasing medical students’ interest in pursuing general practice as a career.
Government urged to reconsider workforce review
Health leaders also called on the Government to back a re-tabled amendment that would provide greater transparency around workforce numbers in the NHS.
The amendment to the Health and Care Bill – which is currently with the House of Lords – would have required a report on NHS staffing be produced every two years to help inform planning.
It has been re-tabled for the Lords’ review after MPs voted against the measure in November.
Speaking before the Health and Social Care Committee today, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, urged the House of Lords to back the amendment.
She said: ‘It is seeking to give us a roadmap and a plan for how we can address the workforce shortages in the future.
‘In healthcare we have suffered over the decades because we don’t have a robust, independent and transparent plan that we can all rely on.’
Similarly, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson warned that the NHS is ‘simply not able to recover the care backlogs’ because it does not have enough staff to do so.
Last month, the Government published its elective recovery plan, which was criticised for lacking a workforce plan.
But independent analysis recently suggested it could begin to fall in mid-2023.