GP and practice manager representatives have come together to urge health secretary Sajid Javid to ‘publicly support and defend’ practice teams against abuse and media ‘misinformation’.
It comes as the BMA has said it is ‘pleased’ to see a ‘clear statement’ from NHS England that abuse towards staff is ‘unacceptable’.
In a joint letter, sent yesterday, the BMA, RCGP, NHS Confederation and Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) expressed ‘grave concern with the lack of central support or public challenge’ by the Government of ‘increasing’ abuse towards general practice teams and ‘misinformation’ around GP services.
They added: ‘Given [their] dedication and the sacrifices made to keep practices and broader primary care services running, by adapting quickly to new ways of working, staff deserve the overt and public support of Government to carry on doing what they do best – delivering much needed high-quality care to patients.
‘Currently, they are being repeatedly attacked, insulted and scapegoated across the media.’
The letter called on Mr Javid to ‘publicly support and defend dedicated GPs and primary care staff against this onslaught of misinformation and abuse promoted by the media’.
It added: ‘This situation would be indefensible under normal circumstances but following the Covid-19 crisis, and with many primary care teams at breaking point, we fear the damage could be irreversible, as more frontline workers consider their future within the profession.
‘This situation is not acceptable. We believe that there must be accurate, timely and regular communications from the Government to the public, which reflect the realities of the situation and what is being done to address the challenges facing the NHS, and particularly relating to general practice.’
The letter also called for ‘support to compensate for’ the pandemic backlog and recent blood tube shortage and for the Government to acknowledge that ‘many patients have benefitted from the new ways of working rapidly implemented by general practice’.
Ambitions for PCNs to ‘improve population health and reduce health inequalities’ will not be delivered ‘if the fundamental building blocks of general practice are not effectively supported’, it added.
Meanwhile, the BMA said it welcomed an NHS England statement that condemned abuse towards GP teams.
In its latest GP Committee bulletin, sent to practices yesterday, it said: ‘The importance of tackling the increased abuse directed against GP practices was also highlighted in the NHSE/I primary bulletin today, and we are pleased to see a clear statement from NHSE/I that violence and aggression towards NHS staff are unacceptable and that it is working with partner organisations to develop practical support for staff in general practice.’
NHS England’s statement said: ‘Unfortunately, we have received reports that members of staff, including colleagues working in primary care, are being subjected to abuse.
‘Everyone has the right to be safe at work, and we want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that violence and aggression towards NHS staff are totally unacceptable. Anyone with concerns should raise concerns with their managers or employers. Staff facing abuse will always have our support and that of their local system.’
NHS England added that it is ‘working with partner organisations to develop practical support for primary care employers and employees’ and reiterated that support is available via its ‘national health and wellbeing support offer’.
The BMA bulletin said that its GPC executive team yesterday ‘met for the first time to begin formal talks with NHSE/I’, following a vote to resume negotiations after a four-month break.
It added that it was ‘clear about the urgent need to deliver an emergency package of actions to support the profession through this point of crisis’.
And a Pulse survey yesterday revealed that nearly three-quarters of GPs are experiencing increased levels of patient abuse compared with before the pandemic.
The BMA recently launched a public campaign to rally support for GP practices, including increased Government investment.