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MPs ask to meet with GPs about ‘access issues’


MPs meeting


MPs have requested meetings with GPs to discuss access to practices amid the row over face-to-face appointments.

Doncaster LMC chief executive Dr Dean Eggitt said he was aware that MPs had written to GP practices in his area requesting ‘meetings to discuss access issues’.

In a message to colleagues, he tweeted: ‘If your practice is written to, please accept the invite and explain politely why general practice can no longer cope.’

Dr Eggitt urged GPs who needed help preparing for meetings with their local MP to contact him.

However, he told Pulse there are plans for the meetings to be ‘taken up more widely’ by the local CCG, as ‘most of’ the political parties have now written to GPs asking to meet.

In Buckinghamshire, MP Greg Smith met with GPs at a local practice at the end of last month.

In a statement following the meeting with Dr George Gavriel and Dr Ben Burgess at The Swan Practice in Buckingham, Mr Smith said it was ‘reassuring’ that the practice has taken steps to ensure patients are given in-person appointments when they need one.

He said: ‘On GP access, the practice is fully open and it was reassuring to hear that despite an increase in demand for appointments from pre-pandemic levels, they have taken steps to ensure all patients get either a telephone or physical appointment, with those needing a physical appointment getting one.’

The ‘productive’ meeting covered a range of issues, including ‘GP access’ and Covid booster jabs, he added in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke has written to GP practices in his constituency asking them to ‘provide a brief summary of the process you are currently using for patients seeking an appointment’.

The chief secretary to the Treasury said he was ‘concerned’ following an ‘increasing number’ of contacts by constituents claiming they struggled to be seen by GPs face to face.

He added that he ‘would also be interested to hear of any issues which you feel are creating barriers to increasing the number of face-to-face appointments’ and said his team was planning to hold an online forum with healthcare professionals in the coming weeks.

Posting the letter on Twitter, Middlesbrough GP partner Dr Heather Wetherell called on the LMC to respond on behalf of practices.

She also said: ‘I can reassure we are on our knees working >12hr days and seeing as many people now [face to face] as we were pre-pandemic, but dealing with far more than pre-pandemic. This, despite some days having only 1 of 4 GPs in the building because of sickness/recruitment issues.’

And she called on her MP to share with ministerial colleagues that ‘there are currently not enough GPs per population head to meet all patient needs safely’ and said that ‘until there is we will have to prioritise appointments as best we can’.

Meanwhile, GP leaders are urging politicians from all sides to step in to help tackle soaring levels of abuse from patients.

Londonwide LMC deputy chief executive Dr Lisa Harrod-Rothwell told Pulse she has written to all MPs with constituencies in the capital calling for support in countering the growing anti-GP sentiment.

In a letter to MPs, she said: ‘Whilst I imagine that much of this will be all too familiar to your own staff team, London practice staff are receiving profanity-filled messages and verbal abuse/threats.

‘We need your urgent help to communicate that general practice is working as hard as it can and that those on the other side of the reception desk, the consulting room or at the end of the phone are people, not a faceless sounding board for frustrations.’

Lancashire and Cumbria LMCs chief executive Peter Higgins also told Pulse he had written to all of his region’s MPs to ‘correct some of the misinformation’ and ‘highlight the abuse our practices are getting’.

He said: ‘We got a very positive response from them with several writing to Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid asking for support for our GPs.

‘We have also had a number of meetings with MPs and are working together with them to manage patients’ expectations and deal with constituents’ complaints.’

It comes amid growing concerns that criticism from some politicians as well as sections of the mainstream media is a key factor behind the surge in abusive and aggressive behaviour towards GPs and practice staff.

Professor Martin Marshall told the RCGP’s annual conference that ‘malicious criticism’ of GPs from ‘some politicians’ and ‘certain sections of the media’ has been the ‘worst that [he] can remember in over 30 years as a GP’.

NHS England this month announced a £250m ‘support’ package for GPs that sets out a range of measures to improve access to practices.

The plan was met with fierce criticism from GPs and their leaders and both the BMA and an LMC have advised GPs ‘not to engage’ with it.

GPC England has since voted to ballot the profession on potential industrial action and called on practices to disengage from the PCN DES in protest to the access plan.

The BMA revealed last week that more than half of GPs would consider leaving the NHS if the Government does not provide them with the support they need, according to a survey conducted before the NHS England package was announced.

A separate BMA ‘snap poll’ conducted after the support package was released, found that 93% of GPs said the package is an ‘unacceptable response’ to the crisis, it said.

READERS' COMMENTS [5]

Kevlar Cardie 26 October, 2021 11:31 am

Yeah, sure. I’ll have a meeting with you.

The honourable ladies and gents can have 8 minutes of my time to get it off their chests and then you can all poke off.

In 2 weeks.

Doc Getmeout 26 October, 2021 1:07 pm

Dear Rt Honourable Sir/Madam
Access is 10 minute appointment and one problem only.
( 4 week wait for routine appt)

Dylan Summers 26 October, 2021 1:27 pm

Calling the current primary care issues “access” issues obscures the problem.

Access issues would mean: appointments are going empty because patients can’t access the service EG not enough phone lines.

What most practices are battling with are capacity issues: there are not enough appointments to deal with the demand.

Politicians like to pretend our problems are access issues because access issues are easily solved – more phone lines, e-consult website etc.

But improving access will only worsen capacity problems.

I’d like to see our professional leaders challenging the idea that we face access issues.

Douglas Callow 26 October, 2021 1:57 pm

what an uninformed bunch
Full attention when they need your vote
Go missing when you need their full attention and understanding beyond party dogma and media rhetoric
I need longer slots not more demand
increasing access is exacerbating 10 years of real world cuts in NHS funding for GP if you allow for 4% annual health inflation

Patrufini Duffy 26 October, 2021 2:48 pm

After their meeting with a banker, surveyor, dentist or back handed business mate rates friend.