The health secretary must ‘urgently meet’ with GP Committee leads about ‘what support GPs could be offered to manage the unprecedented rise in workload to meet the needs of all patients’, the BMA has said.
A letter, sent today by BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, also condemned the Government for siding with media outlets who are ‘scapegoating’ GP practices over patient access.
It demanded that Sajid Javid attends an ‘emergency summit’ regarding GP abuse, and to ‘discuss what further steps, including new legislation, must be taken to keep healthcare workers safe’.
It comes amid the ongoing row around face-to-face appointments, with the Prime Minister yesterday saying that GPs should see patients in person.
It also comes as a 59-year-old man has been charged with assault after attacking four staff members at a GP practice in Manchester on Friday afternoon.
And a Daily Mail campaign for GPs to see patients face to face as the ‘default’ option risks further fuelling abuse and violence against practices, the BMA warned yesterday.
The letter saw Dr Nagpaul requesting for the health secretary to:
- ‘urgently meet with BMA GP committee leads to discuss our concerns and what support GPs could be offered to manage the unprecedent rise in workload to meet the needs of all patients’,
- ‘attend an emergency summit with the BMA to discuss the unacceptable level of abuse being
levelled against GPs and their staff on a daily basis, and to discuss what further steps, including
new legislation, must be taken to keep healthcare workers safe;’ and
- ‘condemn the onslaught of abuse and media scapegoating of GPs and their staff.’
Regarding abuse, the BMA is calling for:
- The maximum sentence for assault against emergency workers to be increased from 12
months’ to 2 years’ imprisonment.
- Verbal abuse against emergency workers to carry a heavier punishment, even when the
threat of physical violence is not present.
- Alongside this, a comprehensive national violence reduction strategy, building on the
existing National Violence Prevention and Reduction Standard, should be developed and
introduced to support staff across both primary and secondary care.
The letter said: ‘Rather than endorsing a media narrative which scapegoats GPs, show them your support for their dedication. Without this support more and more GPs will leave the service, making the manifesto pledge of 6,000 additional GPs inadequate, even if were achievable.’
It added that the BMA’s GP Committee has ‘yet to receive a response’ to two previous letters it has sent to the health secretary to ‘specifically highlight the increasing number of verbal assaults on GPs and primary care staff’.
Dr Nagpaul called on the health secretary to ‘speak openly and unequivocally in support of general practice’ and work with the BMA with ‘honesty, integrity and compassion’.
He said: ‘The narrative that GPs are refusing to see patients face-to-face is as dangerous, as it is inaccurate, and that is why it is so disappointing to see most recently, your public support for the Daily Mail’s campaign and repeated comments elsewhere.
He added: ‘The reality, as you must know, is that with the constraints of the size of GP practice premises, there are limits on how many people can safely be present in a waiting room while adhering to appropriate infection control measures.
‘In addition, there are simply too few GPs and practice staff in under-resourced premises to meet the huge surge in demand that practices are currently experiencing, which will be exacerbated by the Covid vaccination booster programme.’
The public must be ‘made fully aware of just how much strain practices are under and how the service may have to change in order to manage, what is in effect an unmanageable workload’, Dr Nagpaul said.
Mr Javid’s comments last week that it is ‘high time’ that GPs returned to ‘pre-pandemic’ practices of offering face-to-face appointments to ‘everyone who would like one’ are ‘wholly unrealistic’, he added.
GP leaders last week linked record numbers of GPs seeking mental health counselling to the ‘current vitriol and unfair attack against GPs’ in the media.
A Pulse survey this month revealed that nearly three-quarters of GPs are experiencing increased levels of patient abuse compared with before the pandemic.
And, earlier this month, the Doctors’ Association UK reported Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) for breaching the Editors’ Code of Practice with ‘inaccurate’ articles in which she suggested GPs are ‘hiding’.
Meanwhile, a petition calling on the Government to instruct GPs to ‘restart’ face-to-face appointments has now surpassed 300,000 signatures.