The Government is not waging a ‘war on GPs’, amid the row over access to face-to-face appointments, the minister for primary care has said.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on GP access this afternoon, the newly-appointed minister Maria Caulfield thanked GPs for their ‘hard work and dedication’ in going ‘above and beyond’ throughout the pandemic.
She told MPs: ‘I want to start off by thanking general practice teams and GPs in particular and to emphasise – there is no war on GPs. We are all in this together.’
Responding to comments made by shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Ms Caulfield said it was ‘slightly disappointing’ to hear references to a ‘war’.
Dr Allin-Khan, who is also an A&E clinician, told MPs attending the debate that the Government is ‘purposefully turning communities against each other, risking the health and wellbeing of patients and staff, simply because it is unwilling to put forward a sustainable plan to support GPs to manage their workloads’.
Speaking before Ms Caulfield, she said: ‘Let’s be very clear – GPs are being scapegoated for a failure of this Government to act.
‘This war against GPs that is being propagated by this Government does nothing to serve patient needs and does nothing to serve GPs – who are exhausted, tired and unable to fulfil their commitments that they have trained hard to do, because of the failure of this Government.’
It is ‘simply not acceptable’ that GPs are being ‘blamed for being unable to fill vacancies as a result of wider workforce and funding issues’, Dr Allin-Khan added.
Ms Caulfield said that the health secretary access package announced earlier this month was designed ‘precisely to support GPs [and] to enable them to be able to support their patients’.
‘We have been listening long and hard to the difficulties that are being faced in primary care and the range of measures are there to help GPs as much as they are to help patients’, she added.
The minister will be holding a ‘cross-party call’ on Thursday for MPs to feed back on GP ‘issues’ in their area, she said.
She added that she hopes these will be held ‘on a regular basis if that’s needed’.
It comes as GPC England has voted to ballot the profession on potential industrial action and called on practices to disengage from the PCN DES in protest against the access plan.
The BMA has also advised practices to immediately start offering consultations of 15 minutes or more; and apply to close their patient list, as part of the fightback against the plan.
The plan, which both the BMA and LMCs have advised GPs not to engage with at all, will see ICSs submit a list of the 20% of practices in their area with the lowest levels of face-to-face appointments by 28 October to face ‘immediate’ action, among other things.