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NHS England claims GP face-to-face guidance had RCGP’s backing

RCGP president

NHS England has claimed that the RCGP backed its letter asking GPs to offer all patients face-to-face appointments if that is their preference.

The letter, sent to practices last week, has drawn criticism from across the profession, with GPs branding it ‘tone deaf’ and ‘badly judged’.

But in a comment published by The Times today, NHS England said the RCGP had ‘welcomed’ the new guidance.

An NHS England spokesperson told the newspaper: ‘NHS guidance, making sure that patients can access face-to-face appointments, has been widely welcomed by patient groups as well as GPs themselves, including GPs’ own Royal College.’

And in its letter to practices, NHS England referenced the RCGP twice as part of its rationale for issuing the guidance.

This followed an RCGP warning against retaining the ‘total triage’ model of general practice beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, in which it argued that it may ‘exacerbate health inequalities’.

In a formal response to the NHS England letter last week, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said its ‘timing and tone’ had ‘proved a distraction from what is really important’.

He called for ‘clarity, detail and guidance’ on how ‘normal services can be delivered in a safe and pragmatic way that clearly recognises the pressures that general practices are operating under’ as well as ‘time’, ‘support’ and ‘flexibility’ to implement the changes.

However, he added that it is ‘encouraging that our calls for shared decision making between GP and patient on the most appropriate method of consultation seem to have been heard’.

Asked whether it intended to push back on NHS England’s claim it supported the letter, an RCGP spokesperson told Pulse the college had nothing to add at this time.

Although the RCGP did not dispute NHS England’s claim, its former chair, Dr Maureen Baker, said on Twitter it ‘most certainly did not welcome’ NHS England’s letter.

It comes as the BMA has called for an ‘urgent meeting’ with the health secretary to seek clarity regarding face-to-face GP appointment advice.

LMCs and the BMA have both advised practices that the letter had ‘no contractual force’ and should be regarded as guidance only.


Vinci Ho 18 May, 2021 7:16 pm

Ha ha ha
Reminds me of Akira Kurosawa‘s famous film, Rashomon(羅生門),more establishments are sucked into this .who is telling the truth ?🤨🤔👿😈
If I were NHSE/I , I would simply say , ‘ this is command and control , we are Ministry of Plenty . Kowtow and obey .’

Douglas Callow 18 May, 2021 7:44 pm

Lies lies and more damn lies

Barry Sullman 18 May, 2021 9:52 pm

I had a patient demanding a face to face appointment yesterday (like several others). He needed a sick note! Giving triage to the patient is like putting the children in charge of the classroom.

Shaba Nabi 18 May, 2021 10:50 pm

Vinci – where have you been? I’ve missed you!

Patrufini Duffy 18 May, 2021 11:02 pm

RCGP seems like the BBC at times. Next time they’ll ask Harry, Potter. Cluedo anyone?

John Graham Munro 18 May, 2021 11:11 pm


Samir Shah 18 May, 2021 11:58 pm

Plan A – try divide and conquer, if it doesn’t go to plan then spread the blame.
Plan B – try plan A.
Genius plan 😂

Vinci Ho 19 May, 2021 8:37 am

Another ‘advice’ for NHSE/I and Nicki :
If you want to command and control us properly as Ministry of Plenty with ‘skills’ , look up to our longest serving health secretary in history , Agent Hunt( who is sitting comfortably in the chair of Health Select Committee in House of Commons right now ) for the qualities of duplicity and malevolence.
Remember his wonderful achievement in cleverly quoting the BMJ evidence about more patients admitted on Friday to hospitals would die compared with other week-days? It was such a useful weapon against all of us ( both GPs and secondary care ). Of course , it also changed the principles of how BMJ conducted itself since then !😈

PS Thanks to those who wondered where i had disappeared to , away from this platform .
Physically and mentally exasperated by CVP phase 1 ( still running the clinics every week ) . Glad as a small PCN , we say NO to phase 2 CVP to have breathing space right now.

terry sullivan 19 May, 2021 12:09 pm

gps need to learn to say no–and mean it

John Glasspool 19 May, 2021 9:26 pm

Dr Maureen Baker. An yes! I remember her. It’s wonderful to be a GP; you can sign people’s sky-diving forms.

Mark Essop 20 May, 2021 2:15 pm

The RCGP is an academic institution. What mandate does it have to represent the profession?

Concerned GP 20 May, 2021 3:15 pm

No mandate whatsoever to represent us. And it was noticeable how they started changing their tune once they saw the reactions of GPs to the letter. From their previous statements the RCGP has been on the same page as NHSE so why back track now? It’s clear they don’t have a clue what it’s like at the front line and again they only seem to care about the press etc. Time to cancel my membership I think!