Before the pandemic, around 80 per cent of GP consultations took place in person. During the first lockdown that fell to as low as 47 per cent, since then it has risen to 65 per cent.
The doctors’ organisation on Wednesday calls for a number of changes, including specific payments to GPs for carrying out administrative duties, and extension of sickness self-certification so people can be off work for a month without a doctor’s note.
Union accused of creating ‘hostage situation’
Meanwhile, the British Medical Association was accused of holding the NHS “hostage” after telling medics to charge £250 an hour for night work.
The union was accused by NHS trust chief executives of “operating like football agents” and pushing up rates, after issuing a “rate card” to consultants on how much to charge employers for work outside their standard contract.
NHS trust leaders accused the union of creating “an absolute hostage situation” with hospitals needing medics to work overtime in order to clear record backlogs.
More than 6.8 million people – one in nine of the population – are now waiting for operations and appointments. One hospital chief executive told Health Service Journal the recommended rates were “the biggest threat” to efforts to clear backlogs.
Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chairman, defended the plan.
He said: “With the NHS as overstretched and understaffed as it is, NHS trusts are repeatedly asking consultants to do more and more work on top of their normal working hours, which as well as regular overtime at standard rates of pay often includes many unpaid hours of work on top of that.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Health and Social Care Secretary has set out her four priorities of A, B, C, D – including increasing the number of doctors and dentists – and we made £520 million available to improve access and expand capacity among GPs during the pandemic.
“There are nearly 1,500 more full time equivalent doctors working in general practice now than in 2019, and we are spending £1.5 billion to create 50 million more appointments by 2024 – alongside making changes to reduce the workload of GPs and free up appointments.”