A lack of support for general practice is indirectly putting patient lives at risk, amid escalating abuse in GP practices, the England LMCs conference has heard.
A debate around abuse saw 99% of conference delegates agree that ‘the abuse of primary care staff directly affects patient care and puts patient safety at risk’.
And 98% agreed that ‘when Government and [NHS England] choose not to support NHS staff, they directly affect patient safety and knowingly put lives at risk’.
The conference, which took place virtually during Thursday and Friday, also voted to ‘demand that healthcare policy is decided based on high-quality evidence on population health, and not the whims of a handful of vitriolic media’, with the vote unanimous on the topic.
Speaking in the debate, which focussed on GP abuse and wellbeing, Dr Abel Adegoke of Wirral LMC told delegates that the NHS ‘runs on the blood of GPs’.
He said: ‘About four weeks ago, my younger sister was being buried and I had to watch via Zoom because that was taking place in Nigeria – yet I was still seeing patients. That was the day I felt so sad about being a GP because despite that sacrifice, I was still abused by a patient who wanted to be seen urgently for an absolutely non-urgent condition.
‘We are being taken for granted.’
Dr Cagdas Calisir of Hertfordshire LMC added: ‘Every GP I know is planning their exit. They are planning it sooner than they did before and every day there are fewer of us dealing with the huge workload.’
‘It feels now that the only thing that is acceptable to people is total martyrdom – anything less is vilified’, Dr Sarah Westerbeek of Kent LMC told delegates.
And Lincolnshire LMC medical director Dr Kieran Sharrock said: ‘I don’t live in my practice area, but my colleagues in the practice do, and when I walk into reception and I have a care navigator or a nurse in tears because they feel they can’t go home because the people around them have abused them in the surgery – that’s just not appropriate.
‘The reason they are being abused is because the Government, the press, the Department of Health [and] NHS England are putting unrealistic expectation upon general practice. Patients think we can deliver what we can’t – we are working to our maximum plus 50%.’
He added: ‘I can go home at the end of the day and I don’t see the patients who have been abusing me, but my staff can’t. It’s time for the Government to support us with a proactive campaign to say “self-care first, look after yourself so you don’t get unwell and respect your general practices”.’
The debate follows brutal months of GP coverage in the mainstream media, amid a perception GP practices were ‘closed’ during the pandemic and are still not seeing patients face to face.
In September, health secretary Sajid Javid added his voice to the clamour, by stating in Parliament that it was ‘high time’ GPs saw their patients face to face.
And his £250m ‘support’ package, aimed at boosting the availability of face-to-face appointments has not been well-received by the profession.
Results from the BMA’s indicative ballot of GP practices regarding what actions they are willing to take showed that over half could quit the PCN DES in protest.
NHS Digital data for October showed that nearly two thirds of GP appointments took place face to face last month.