LETTER: Accusing GP surgeries of ‘failing’ is unfair and unhelpful

I write on behalf of the Local Medical Committee (LMC), the representative body for GPs in Nottinghamshire, regarding your recent report about the performance of local GP practices quoting information highlighted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

While we have been working constructively with the CQC regarding their inspection process the way this information has been conveyed to the public causes us grave concern.

All GP practices are committed to providing the highest quality care for their patients but all are struggling at present to cope with unprecedented levels of demand for their services while the proportion of NHS resources spent on primary care has actually fallen in recent years.

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Some practices are less well able than others to respond to this increased demand due to factors such as: reduced practice income, lack of support in upgrading inadequate premises, and an inability to recruit GPs and practice nurses, vast numbers of whom are quitting general practice or taking ill-health retirement.

Unfortunately the CQC does not take these factors into account, and their findings are often easy to misinterpret.

Singling out practices who appear to have fallen short of these performance measures and accusing them of ‘failing’ their patients is therefore unfair and unhelpful.

It may cause patients in those practices unnecessary concern, as many of these shortcomings have no direct impact on patient care or have recently been put right. Such coverage will further demoralise an already hard pressed workforce doing their best in difficult circumstances. Recent surveys by the BMA and Royal College of GPs have shown that morale among GPs is at rock bottom.

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When faced with this constant barrage of criticism is it any wonder that young doctors don’t want to make a career in general practice? In the East Midlands the vacancy rate for our GP vocational training scheme this year is nearly 40% (the highest in the UK) and signs are this shortage of GPs will be with us for some time.

Of course colleagues in the teaching and social work professions have had to endure the pressure of similar government inspections for many years now and have also witnessed the negative impact they have had on recruitment and morale. Is it not time therefore that we put an end to this blame culture, and can we not recognise that healthcare providers are not supermarkets and that it is inappropriate to judge the caring professions in this way?

We urge patients to recognise the difficulties their practices face, to show support and appreciation for the hard work and dedication of their GPs and their staff, and keep an open mind about the value of these performance measures and how they are interpreted.

Chris Locke,

Chief executive,

Medical Committee Ltd

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