The BMA has written to the Daily Mail to express its ‘anger at attacks and smears’ against GPs, following the latest GP-bashing article published by the newspaper.
A Daily Mail article by columnist Sarah Vine this week asked why GPs are ‘still using Covid as an excuse not to see patients’.
The offending article, published by the Mail Online on Tuesday, was entitled ‘Being a doctor is supposed to be about helping sick people get better, not guilt-tripping them for taking up your time… So why are doctors STILL using Covid as an excuse not to see patients?’.
It likened obtaining a GP appointment to ‘seeking an audience with the Pope’ and claimed that ‘GPs seem to have unilaterally decided they don’t want to see patients anymore’.
It said: ‘Their excuse? Covid, of course. But why? Everywhere else has opened up. If the rest of us are expected to go back to work as normal, why can’t they?
‘To my mind, the answer is simple: it suits them not to have to see patients. Thanks to Covid — that great catch-all excuse for incompetence in public service — they’ve realised it’s easier to keep us at arm’s length, and hide behind “precautionary measures”.’
In response, the BMA warned that the article was divisive and counterproductive, saying it had sent a letter to the newspaper for publication.
It said: ‘We have written to the Daily Mail to express our anger at attacks and smears like this article, which will only lead to more doctors leaving general practice, meaning patients will find it even harder to get an appointment or to be seen in a timely manner.
‘As GPs, we are on the side of patients so attempts to divide us in such a way only distract from who is really to blame for our failing health services: the Government.’
The BMA added that the ‘frustration at struggling to get through to a GP surgery’ expressed in the article ‘will come as no surprise to the ever-dwindling number of GPs and their teams’, as well as resonating with many patients.
But it added that ‘the simple fact is there are not enough GPs or practice staff to provide the care that patients are asking for and need’.
It added: ‘In September, practices in England booked more than 28 million appointments; one for every other person in the country.
‘But this is on the back of having lost the equivalent of more than 1,800 full-time GPs since 2015. Anyone can see these numbers just don’t add up to a safe and sustainable system.’
Pulse approached the Mail for comment.
It comes as the Practice Managers’ Association (PMA) has said that the media rhetoric that it is ‘virtually impossible’ to see a GP needs to end, as it is adding to the continual abuse of practice staff.
Last month, it was revealed that ‘inaccurate and unfair’ negative media coverage of GPs in UK newspapers is contributing to workforce stress and the retention crisis.
GP-bashing in the media
In September, the press regulator rejected an appeal lodged by the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) over its decision about another GP-bashing article published by Mail Online.
Pulse had previously revealed the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) ruling that Mail Online did not breach journalist code by publishing an article claiming that GPs have ‘fuelled’ a crisis in England’s A&E departments.
The DAUK had raised a formal letter of complaint to IPSO about the ‘misleading’ anti-GP coverage in June, which garnered 2,395 signatures.
Last year, Pulse covered extensively how GPs were vilified in the mainstream media for allegedly shirking their patient-consulting responsibilities.
And a Pulse survey detailed how the public perception led to increased levels of abuse against GPs and staff – especially receptionists.