GPs and other healthcare workers must get ‘priority access’ to fuel so they can get to work and reach patients, the BMA has said.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the problems with petrol supplies mean there is a risk ‘NHS staff won’t be able to do their jobs, and provide vital services and care to people who urgently need it’.
Fuel is relied on by ambulances ‘to reach people in urgent need of care and GPs to visit very ill patients at home’, he said.
He added that the results of Government plans to raise more HGV drivers ‘won’t be immediate’, and ‘[h]ealthcare and essential workers must therefore be given priority access to fuel so they can continue their crucial work and guarantee care to patients.’
It follows estimates that up to 90% of British petrol stations currently have empty pumps, caused by a shortage of HGV drivers to transport fuel.
And it comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed a Daily Mail campaign for ‘default’ face-to-face GP appointments and suggested GPs have a right to see patients face to face.
In the meeting, the BMA called for ‘clear public backing for GPs’ acknowledging ‘the huge pressure they are under’, urgent investment in primary care to ‘remove unnecessary bureaucracy’ and a Government commitment to work with the BMA on ‘a national campaign to stop the abuse of NHS staff’.
A Pulse survey of 1,000 GPs found that half say that a return to the number of face-to-face appointments would not be possible, as patients are now expecting to have quicker access through remote consultations.
But it also found that the average waiting time for a face-to-face GP appointment is currently significantly shorter than before the Covid-19 pandemic, and patients waited about a week on average for a remote consultation with a GP.