The BMA consultants committee has pledged its support for GPs and urged the Government to focus on solutions rather scapegoating primary care staff.
The show of solidarity comes against a backdrop of growing criticism of GPs from sections of the mainstream media and some politicians and surging levels of abuse from patients.
In a recent email bulletin sent to consultants, committee chair Vishal Sharma said abuse towards ‘dedicated’ GPs and their practice workforce is ‘unacceptable’.
He added: ‘The BMA consultants committee stands with our incredibly hard-working general practice colleagues in unequivocally condemning this abuse. It is fuelled by a damaging and demoralising misinformation campaign in some parts of the media, as well as ill-judged comments from politicians.
‘It is clear to us that this shameful anti-GP rhetoric is not only damaging the morale of the whole workforce but also leading to verbal abuse of practice staff on a daily basis and serious incidents of physical attack.’
Dr Sharma said the committee ‘utterly condemns unfair anti-GP narratives and deplores’ the blaming of doctors for the Government’s ‘failure to properly fund and support the NHS’ for the last 15 years.
He added: ‘The Government needs to focus its efforts on working with us to address these issues and the backlog of patients requiring care across the entire profession, rather than vilifying our GP colleagues who have worked tirelessly during this national health crisis.’
His comments come amid a dramatic increase in levels of abuse towards GPs and practice staff over the past few months.
The rise in abusive behaviour has also prompted primary care clinical leaders in South Yorkshire to publish an open letter to patients highlighting the ‘extreme pressures’ faced by GPs as they deal with a ‘mix of complex factors leading to huge levels of demand’.
Doncaster CCG said: ‘GP surgeries are working through long lists of requests for appointments and call-backs which we appreciate can cause frustration for patients and the perception sometimes that we are not open.
‘Surgeries and pharmacies have worked incredibly hard to provide services throughout the Covid-19 crisis and continue to do so.’
The letter asked patients to consider their ‘first port of call’ for symptoms, including ‘basic self-management of simple conditions’, taking painkillers before contacting services and visiting pharmacies for advice.
It added: ‘While we understand your frustrations if you struggle to get through to us, or are unhappy with what is available, aggression and abuse towards our staff has sadly become a daily reality which is unfair, undeserved and unacceptable. So please be understanding of us too.’
It follows a similar letter from CCGs in the South West of England last week, which acknowledged the intense pressure and criticism facing GPs and expressed gratitude for the work they have been doing.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has also spoken out in support of GPs and acknowledged the pressure they are facing as the country emerges from the pandemic.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference on Tuesday, he said: ‘I think it is very tough at the moment for GPs and they are doing more consultations than they were doing pre-pandemic.
‘The number of face-to-face consultations has dropped from 80% to 60%, but they’re doing a lot more volume-wise. The real solution to this is to increase the capacity of the system with more GPs.’
Meanwhile, the Scottish health secretary and BMA Scotland have published a joint statement of support for GPs, condemning abuse around face-to-face appointments and saying they ‘understand what is and is not possible at this time’.
It said: ‘We are both clear that introducing any arbitrary targets of face-to-face appointments that may be unobtainable and may not meet the diverse needs of your patients would be totally inappropriate.’
And the BMA last week launched a survey into general practice’s response to the current abuse and workload crises, asking whether GPs would consider leaving the NHS or handing in undated resignations among other actions.