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Big stories of the month 1

LMCs vote to consider mass resignation

GP leaders have voted to survey the profession whether it will support mass resignation if the Government fails to deliver a ‘rescue package’ for general practice within the next six months. In an historic vote, LMCs voted through a motion that calls on the GPC to ‘canvass GPs on their willingness to submit undated resignations’ from July if emergency help is not provided. The motion also instructs the GPC to recommend other actions GPs ‘can undertake without breaching their


GPs told to warn patients of sick note ‘snooping’

GP leaders have said Government plans to extract data relating to Med 3 certificates amounts to ‘state snooping’. Starting this month, the Department

for Work and Pensions (DWP) will extract information from GP records, including the number of Med 3s, or so-called ‘fit notes’, issued by each practice and the number of patients recorded as ‘unfit’ or ‘maybe fit’ for work. GPs will have to inform patients of this, but cannot withhold information unless a patient explicitly objects. CCG-level data will be published

anonymously, but DWP officials told Pulse they will have access to practice-level data, which they will not be able to share. Family Doctor Association chair

Dr Peter Swinyard said: ‘I think that is state snooping’, while GP and data-sharing campaigner Dr Neil Bhatia expressed concern the data would be used to ‘create league tables, name and shame’. • Full story:

contracts’ and to consider a ballot of GPs regarding what services practices could stop offering in order ‘to ensure safe and sustainable care’ for patients. The vote took place at a Special LMC Conference in London last week. • How the GP fightback began, pages 8-10


Rise in surgery closures displaces 200,000 patients

A rapid rise in surgery closures last year saw 200,000 patients forced to register with a new practice or travel further to see their own GP. The Pulse investigation also reveals 31 practices and 41 branch surgeries closed in England as a result of a merger in 2015 – a 40% rise on 2014. Rising workload, funding cuts and a severe shortage of GPs are among the reasons cited by practices. GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey

said: ‘It’s becoming increasingly difficult for small practices to cope with rising levels of bureaucracy and manage their workload.’

But a Department of Health

spokesperson said: ‘These figures represent less than 1% of the total number of GP practices in England.’ Pulse continues to highlight the issue and push for better emergency support with its Stop Practice Closures campaign. • Rescue teams are too little, too late for struggling practices, page 16

6 February 2016 Pulse 4 5

GMC investigates too many doctors says review lead

The GMC may conduct too many fitness-to-practise (FTP) investigations each year, according to the expert it has appointed to review the FTP process. Professor Louis Appleby cited figures

that show 82% of GMC investigations lead to no sanctions and said the validity of complaints against doctors may need to be assessed more effectively. A review last year said FTP procedures

‘may do more overall harm than good in terms of patient care’. In an exclusive interview with Pulse, Professor Appleby questioned whether the stress caused to doctors facing investigation was adding to the risk of mental health problems. • Big Interview, page 46

Just six physician associates hired for GP practices

A scheme intended to attract 200 physician associates from the US with a salary of £50,000 has made just 35 ‘provisional offers’, of which only six are to work in general practice. The trust leading the scheme said it

was unlikely to meet its target, as it had ‘smaller numbers than envisaged’ when it began the scheme last August. GPs said the scheme was ‘gimmicky’,

and showed the Government had no ‘real commitment’ to workforce development’. • PAs are an unknown quantity, page 34

The big question

What is in Jeremy Hunt’s new ‘package’ for GPs?

The health secretary will announce a ‘package of measures’ to tackle the ‘growing pressures’ on GPs later this month. Having conveniently forgotten

his calamitous ‘new deal’ last year, Jeremy Hunt is once again hoping to build bridges with the profession by doing ‘even more to support the profession’ (whatever that might mean). Mr Hunt said he will discuss the

measures with the RCGP and the GPC and he is expected to provide more details of how the NHS will spend the 4-5% increase in GP funding promised from April. But you could forgive GPs for thinking they had heard all this before. Perhaps Mr Hunt should forget the grand gestures and just listen to grassroots GPs?

Your comments • ‘The 4% each year is NOT additional funding... it’s just keeping up with medical inflation.’ • ‘The extra funding will be spent on employing assistants to the physician and pharmacy assistants.’ • ‘Stop. Just stop. Stop spinning. Stop pretending to listen. Stop claiming to support GPs while acting otherwise.’ • ‘It’s too late. You’ve spoiled my job and my life. Now shove off.’ • Join the discussion at package

What's hot online QOF qualms

A study found practices with a high QOF achievement in certain indicators were more likely to see patients admitted with an adverse drug reaction. As one doctor put it on Twitter: ‘It’s not the QOF that carries you off, it’s the QOFin they carry you off in.’

Strikeout It’s fair to say GP Dr Nick Summerton’s opinion piece saying that ‘striking is something doctors just should not do’ did not strike a chord on the Pulse website. His opinion piece attracted more than 100 comments (most voicing opposition) and was one of the most- read articles on PulseToday last month. But when we last saw him, he remained cheerful, despite being branded ‘the Katie Hopkins of general practice’ #ouch.


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