It's hard to believe that I've already completed my first year as chair of the BMA GPs committee. It has certainly been an eventful and challenging year.
I took office last summer at a low ebb for general practice after negotiations with the government in England had completely broken down. GPs were experiencing the damaging reality of imposed contract changes. It was important and significant that we got back to the negotiating table, and that we successfully reversed the vast majority of the 2013/14 imposition, while also reducing bureaucracy and increasing core funding.
QOF (quality and outcomes framework) points have also been retired in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as part of our UK-wide approach to cutting box-ticking activities, to allow GPs to spend more time on clinical care.
Many of the benefits of the contract changes will be felt as the year progresses. For example, GPs in England will see the significantly reduced reporting of a smaller QOF, the ending of work related to the quality and productivity domain, three imposed directed enhanced services for patient risk profiling, remote monitoring and online access.
This year's unplanned admissions enhanced service rightly focuses on caring for our most ill and frail patients. Although this is incurring work, it should be balanced against the total contract changes that aim to reduce workload and bureaucracy. It is important that practices do not make this enhanced service more onerous than necessary, and I advise you to follow our step-by-step guide to ease implementation and reporting.
The GPC's work this year takes place in a politicised pre-election environment, and our priority is to mitigate the effects of electioneering motives, in order to tackle the real issues affecting patients, GPs and practices.
While we will work hard to achieve the best possible outcome in the 2015/16 contract negotiations, wider pressures are paralysing general practice and these must be addressed beyond the contract.
We are also fighting hard for investment in the infrastructure and capacity of practices to deliver current and future needs, and to protect those surgeries where services and future viability are under threat from cuts in minimum practice income guarantee and personal medical services funding. Listening to you
I have also established greater communication between the GPC and grassroots GPs. I hope you find my regular newsletters, like this one, useful in keeping you informed.
I am committed to the voice of everyday GPs influencing our policies. I thank the several thousand of you who have responded to the surveys we have conducted in the past year - on the contract imposition, collaboration between practices, the impact of clinical commissioning groups and, most recently, on GP premises.
We have used these results in our deliberations with the government and policymakers, representing the realities affecting GPs on the ground. We shall continue to build on this, as well as use online fora for feedback such as BMA Communities.
In the coming year, we will also survey the entire profession for their views on the future shape of general practice. Communicating the reality
Over the past year our communications team has worked hard to successfully bring to public attention the unarguable pressures and constraints affecting GP practices.
It is notable that these pressures are now being reported in the media, when previously the crisis in the NHS was reported to be everywhere except in general practice.
Our Your GP cares campaign takes this message directly to the public and our patients, stating that GPs care about the impoverished state of general practice and its damaging effect on the access and quality of care they can provide.
I strongly recommend you visit the Your GP cares web page, which also has material to download and display in your surgery.
The campaign rightly puts the onus on the government to act decisively to fulfil its responsibility to provide patients with a quality general practice service.
Our campaign complements the Royal College of GPs' sterling work via their Put Patients First campaign. I am in regular contact with college chair Maureen Baker and I believe we are far stronger together, as the two main voices of UK GPs, in arguing the case for general practice in the months before a general election.
I could not do my job without the support and hard work of my executive: my deputy chair Richard Vautrey, and negotiators Dean Marshall, Beth McCarron Nash and Brian Balmer, who was elected as a new member at July's GPC meeting. I also thank the chairs of the devolved nation GPCs: Tom Black (Northern Ireland), Alan McDevitt (Scotland), and Charlotte Jones (Wales), who are all executive team members.
I would also like to pay tribute to GP negotiator Peter Holden, who leaves the team after 15 years' service. Peter has shown unswerving commitment, with a plain-speaking approach and unparalleled knowledge in areas such as finance and premises. Peter remains as an active GPC member, and we will continue to make use of his expertise and skills.
Chair, BMA GPs committee
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