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GPs fear Mail campaign for ‘default’ face-to-face appointments will fuel abuse

GPs fear Mail campaign for ‘default’ face-to-face appointments will fuel abuse

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 has warned.

It comes as a man has been charged with assault after attacking four staff members at a GP practice in Manchester on Friday afternoon, leaving two hospitalised with head injuries.

The campaign, launched by the Daily Mail yesterday, demands a ‘guarantee that face-to-face GP appointments are the default and anyone who wants to see their family doctor in person should be able to do so‘.

The newspaper’s five-point ‘manifesto for GPs’ also includes calls for the Government to ‘act to ensure a greater proportion of GP appointments are in person’, including by providing ‘incentives or penalties for local surgeries if necessary‘.

It said that the Government must take ‘urgent action’ to deliver on its election promise of 6,000 more GPs and 50 million more GP appointments per year and that ‘if necessary’ practice-based pharmacists or nurses should ‘receive extra training so they can ease [the] burden on doctors and help with face-to-face cases’.

The newspaper reported that health secretary Sajid Javid backed the campaign, saying: ‘I am committed to ensuring everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, can choose to see their GP face to face and I am grateful to the Daily Mail for launching this campaign.’

Responding to the campaign, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said this and ‘similar “anti-GP” rhetoric in the media’ risk ‘fuelling a climate of spiralling abuse’ and leading to more incidents like the ‘appalling’ Manchester attack.

He added: ‘It is damaging to both doctors and their patients and serves no real purpose other than to give backing to the growing trend of abuse, vitriol and violence that is being directed towards our healthcare workers.

‘GPs are seeing millions of their patients face to face, as well as offering telephone and online appointments, every week. The move to an initial telephone consultation to assess a patient’s needs was, and is, in line with NHS England’s and the Government’s guidance and is still necessary for infection control and to keep patients and healthcare staff as safe as possible.’

Dr Vautrey added that suggestions in the media that face-to-face consultations ‘need to begin again’ are ‘clearly wrong’.

He said: ‘This misinformation is creating a dangerous breeding ground for discontent. Staff being harassed and slandered on social media, being subjected to verbal abuse, intimidation and physical attacks cannot and should not be allowed to happen.

‘Sections of media which insist on peddling these dangerous untruths risk inciting even greater levels of violence and abuse towards healthcare staff, when in fact their effort should be directed towards asking the Government why it is standing by and allowing this country to have a GP service that is under-funded and now, under attack.’

Meanwhile, a petition calling on the Government to instruct GPs to ‘restart’ face-to-face appointments has garnered more than 60,000 signatures.

Another petition, hosted on the Government website, which calls for Parliament to ‘create a legal right for patients to receive timely face-to-face GP appointments’, has been signed by almost 17,000 people.

A Government response given in July said that GP practices ‘have remained open and offering face to face appointments throughout the pandemic’.

It added that GP teams are ‘busy’ and ‘working hard to meet high and rising demand for services as restrictions ease’ and that the Government is ‘incredibly grateful for their tireless and continuing efforts’ to support patients and deliver the Covid vaccination programme.

However, it reiterated that practices are ‘expected to offer both remote and face to face appointments taking into account clinical appropriateness and patient preference for appointment type’.

The petition will be considered for debate in Parliament if it surpasses 100,000 signatures before it closes on 9 December.

It comes as 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. 

And a Pulse survey revealed that nearly three-quarters of GPs are experiencing increased levels of patient abuse compared with before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Doctors’ Association UK wrote to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) this month to report Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson for breaching the Editors’ Code of Practice with ‘inaccurate’ articles in which she suggested GPs are ‘hiding’.

It follows a racially motivated attack on a Lincolnshire GP who ‘nearly lost his sight’ and GP practices targeted with hoax bomb threats and blood-soaked tissues last month.

A shocking survey from the BMA found that more than half of GPs have faced verbal abuse from patients or those accompanying them in the last month and one in five has been threatened.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David Shuttleworth 20 September, 2021 5:06 pm

Sadly, most patients want a diagnosis and however well meaning the practice nurse might be, this is simply not part of their training, and patients are well aware of this.

Mad Dog Munro 20 September, 2021 5:17 pm

Ram your Manifesto.

The Prime Minister 20 September, 2021 5:19 pm


Reply moderated
Vinci Ho 20 September, 2021 5:47 pm

So here we are , our enemies are growling in front of us and showed their true identities. This is war !
Well done to some yellow journalism driven by sensationalism and populism.

Cameron Wilson 20 September, 2021 7:24 pm

Come on Nikki, let’s here your take on this one! What about deliver the extra 6k wte and then we might consider!!

Neil Tallant 20 September, 2021 7:40 pm

GPs maybe just take a side step here and hold back from the knee jerk reactions of indignation. GP critics and government are making a superficial point – Why are GPs not offering F2F routinely? Every other industry is doing its best to open up, why not GPs? We all have a viewpoint on this so put answers on a post card and come up with a reasoned response. It’s actually a good opportunity to hold the government to task on repeated failures in its support and investment in General Practitioner’s and General Practice as a whole

Rupert Whitehead 20 September, 2021 8:02 pm
This publication should be everyone’s starting point for countering arguments. petition? Report it –
Violates T&Cs by presenting misleading/incorrect information. >6-7 million monthly face to face appointments in July in England alone in that data. 50-56% face to face proportion down from average of 80% face to face previously. A reduction but by no means a cessation.

Patrufini Duffy 20 September, 2021 8:20 pm

Daily Mail = Daily Snail. So intellectually slow.

They publish fake news articles and “hyped up” headlines and “mastered the art of running stories that aren’t true.” “ is the very antithesis of click-bait and hype headlines. We just tell (fake) stories better than anyone else.”

MULAYIL KRISHNAN Gopinath 20 September, 2021 9:44 pm

Only a return to face to face consultations will get GP’s out of this mess !!

Mary Hewitt 21 September, 2021 12:10 am

The media GP bashing has to be stopped immediately by the government.

The public need to be told that the truth in no uncertain terms at all that there are severe staff shortages and surging workloads and that it’s the government’s responsibility to solve these huge problems.

GPs are doing amazingly well battling on despite the government not having solved the underlying problems which are making GP practice staff’s jobs so incredibly difficult.

Thank you ‘The Times’ for reporting some reality today

John Graham Munro 21 September, 2021 12:13 am

Used to hold surgeries on Saturdays and Sundays——–just me and an open door———never had a problem

Mad Dog Munro 21 September, 2021 9:11 am

I used to hold surgeries on Saturdays and Sundays- just me and an open door- never had a problem.
The serfs would quietly queue outside my tent all the way down into the Lord of the Manor’s pasture.
I’d charge one groat for a bloodletting with a handful of leaches and two groats for a cupping session to let out the evil humours.
It was lovely.
I was Galen’s house officer, don’t you know.

Turn out The Lights 21 September, 2021 9:17 am

There was GP bashing, a lot of it, before Covid, just as much after We are an easy target, We are front of house. Go back to face to face fine, but ther are not enough of us to provide what the punters want. A free buffet of access any time any place face to face/telephone/email/video consultation whith a professional who known them and gives a sh&&.Guess what whe have had at least 15 yrs of GP bashing, increasing workloads, and bullying from all quarters.I dont give a sh@@ any more. The NHS and GP land is like a caught makerel,its flapping on the sand on the beach once caught, it looks alive but it isnt, leave it on the beach put it back in the water its dead either way.Looks alive but it isnt and nothing we can do will alter what will happen.

Tim Atkinson 21 September, 2021 12:06 pm

When I was a junior dr I soon got sick & tired of pompous has-beens telling me how ‘in their day’ they worked so much harder and for longer. They were like the old footballers who the longer they were retired the better they had been.
That was over 30 years ago but there appears to be a new generation of pompous has beens.
Well as Oscar Wilde might have said, Those who can, do. Those who can’t retire & barrack from the safety of their armchairs.
GP is unrecognisable today compared with the old red book days. GPs today, particularly partners, deserve nothing but admiration.

Mad Dog Munro 21 September, 2021 12:13 pm

@Tim Atkinson.
Hear hear.

Robert Vaughan 21 September, 2021 1:51 pm

@Mad Dog Munro
What a fantastic song, cannot get it out of my head now.
I wish it had been available six years ago to send to my colleagues and quite a few patients when I walked away from the job, would have pretty much summed things up.
Thank you.

Patrufini Duffy 21 September, 2021 2:39 pm

Leaders and MBEs and FRCGPs mean nothing, absolutely nothing, in this dire, pitiful and disgusting climate of medicine. Your tenures turn into an embarrassment.

Mad Dog Munro 21 September, 2021 2:55 pm

@Robert Vaughan

Playing it now.
Might be wafting out into the car park.

Ho hum.

John Graham Munro 21 September, 2021 3:54 pm

Tim Atkinson & Co.——–I am a pompous ”has been”——-I was also around in the ”Red Book Days”

Mad Dog Munro 21 September, 2021 4:01 pm

Tim Atkinson & Co.——–I am a pompous ”has been”——-I was also around in the ”Red Book Days”
Wibble !!!

Turn out The Lights 21 September, 2021 5:38 pm

The song is excellent a new anthem for GP land in the UK the BMA should pass a motion like I nearly did listening to it,I was laughing that much.