New local GP leader highlights record pressure facing general practice

Torbay Weekly

Devon’s new GP leader has highlighted the record pressure facing local general practice – but reiterated it remains open and has been throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Rachel Ali, chair of Devon Local Medical Committee (LMC), which represents general practice, said: “This week 62 GP surgeries across the county self-reported experiencing major resilience issues to the LMC. Between them they care for over one million patients.

“These are the highest patient figures recorded by the LMC since launching its ‘alert status’ reporting system a year ago to help GP practices flag how much pressure they are under.

“General practice is under enormous strain due to a national workforce shortage in the profession and years of under-resourcing, but I would like to reassure patients that it is open and has been throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and they will be prioritised according to their clinical needs.

“The versatility, hard work and professionalism in general practice never ceases to amaze me and local GP practices have stepped up to the challenge of delivering the majority of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in addition to the day job.”

Dr Ali would like to reassure the public that:

  • all GP practices remain open for patients.
  • if you require an appointment, then the most appropriate appointment will be offered and discussed with you. The appointment may be face-face, by telephone, e-mail or another route. The GP practice will do everything to protect your safety and that of its staff.
  • routine annual checks for long-term health conditions may have been delayed by the lockdowns, but they have not been forgotten, and GP practices will contact patients as soon as is safely possible.
  • GPs and practice staff are working hard to keep you safe by running your local Covid-19 vaccination programme. Please make sure you book an appointment when asked to do so.
  • people can find the most appropriate healthcare service to meet their needs by looking online at NHS Service Finder. If you need help now, and you're not sure what to do go to or call 111. If you think it's an emergency call 999.

Commenting on the pressure facing local general practice, Dr Ali said: “I am am looking forward to ensuring that our local GP practices are fully supported to deliver high-quality care for their patients and to be sustainable and viable.

“Issues like workforce, workload, professional support, GP practice resilience – including recovery from Covid-19 pressures – and legislative changes to health systems are among the key areas to address to ensure that general practice is sustainable.

“There needs to be greater recognition of the challenges and opportunities facing general practice – issues that we see every day on the frontline – backed by appropriate resources and investment. My colleagues and I at the LMC look forward to working with local GP practices, health partners and other stakeholders to achieve this.”

Dr Ali took over as chair from Dr Bruce Hughes at the LMC’s recent annual meeting, for an initial two-year term.

She is one of the youngest GPs in the country to hold the Chair role at an LMC and is Devon’s first female leader.

Dr Ali, a Plymouth GP,  is also one on four GPs from the LMC who serve on the General Practitioners’ Committee (GPC) – which helps shape national policy in general practice – and was recently appointed as its first Gender Diversity Champion.