Warning on seven-day surgeries
Ministers must stop their "surreal obsession" with wanting to see GPs' surgeries opening seven days a week, one of the UK's most senior doctors will warn today.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association's (BMA) GP committee chairman, will highlight how its recent survey revealed a "potential catastrophic time bomb ready to explode", with one in three GPs intending to retire in the next five years.
Referring to the new Government's promise to recruit thousands more GPs, Dr Nagpaul will say it is "absolutely pointless promising 5,000 extra GPs within this parliament if we lose 10,000 GPs retiring in the same period".
The "irrefutable fact is that patient demand has absolutely outstripped the capacity of GP services," he will tell grassroots GPs from across the country.
Dr Nagpaul is delivering the keynote speech at the annual Local Medical Committee (LMC) conference of GPs in London.
"Being a GP has an unsustainable, punishing pace and intensity," he is expected to say.
"We work flat out 12 to 14 hour days without a break. We manage complex patients often with four different chronic problems, trying to condense an hour's worth in the impossibility of a 10-minute consultation.
"We look after seriously ill patients at home. We laboriously record data we're performance managed on.
'Add to that the avalanche of phone consultations, hundreds of patient letters and test results daily, each of which could have significant consequences on a patient's health."
He will warn that the problems are only expected to get worse, with the rapidly ageing population meaning there will be an estimated one million more patients who will have three or more long-term conditions in a decade.
Dr Nagpaul will say that, now the election is out of the way, he is calling upon David Cameron to "jettison the political pipe dreams of tomorrow and get real about how we resource, resuscitate and rebuild general practice today".
"Ministers must halt their surreal obsession for practices to open seven days when there aren't the GPs to even cope with current demands," he is expected to say.
"This would damage quality care by spreading GPs so thinly and will reduce GPs' availability for older vulnerable patients.
"The newly-elected Government must wake up to this alarming reality not only because it will fail dismally in its manifesto pledge for 5,000 extra GPs, but crucially because unless it turns this around we won't have a comprehensive general practice service in parts of the UK.
"As GPs we face a stark choice to sink or swim. We must work with other health professional such as pharmacists who can support GPs in their daily work. We must equally be creative about new ways of working and using technology to ease pressures.
"We also need a national programme of proactive support from Government with dedicated resources for GPs and practices struggling under pressure right now - not after the event when practices are about to collapse.
"And at a volatile time when any practice can be vulnerable, we need support - not threats or breach notices when practices can't deliver due to circumstance."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "This is an overly negative and pessimistic view from the doctors' union. Thousands of GPs across the country are already offering patients GP access seven days a week - by next March, a third of the country will be covered. We have made it very clear that we will make 5,000 more GPs available and have backed the NHS's own plan for the future by investing the £8bn it needs to transform care closer to home."