NHS England’s medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani has tweeted in response to a storm of criticism against a letter reminding GPs to offer face-to-face appointments, apologising for any ‘hurt’ caused.
The letter, signed by herself and NHS England primary care strategy and contracts director Ed Waller, was sent out yesterday to GP practices across England, reminding them to offer face-to-face appointments to patients where necessary and including a toolkit to help clarify patient communication to make it clear they can still be seen in person where necessary.
But it was also highlighted to newspapers in advance by NHS England’s press office – leading to widespread coverage including being the lead story in Monday’s Telegraph, which claimed GPs had been ‘warned’ they must offer face-to-face appointments.
GPs, including the RCGP, called the letter ‘insulting’ in the face of the massive effort by practices to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many highlighted how they have continued to see patients where necessary, despite problems with accessing PPE.
In a tweet this morning, Dr Kanani responded to the criticism by saying that she is ‘so proud’ of general practice, and apologising for any ‘hurt’ caused by the letter.
Any conclusions drawn by the media about my colleagues are not mine, and I apologise for any hurt caused.
As you know the changes in our ways of working have made it even more important that we are clear with patients about how best to use our services, and that WE ARE OPEN. — Dr Nikita Kanani (@NikkiKF) September 15, 2020
She concluded that she is ‘grateful’ for the ‘incredible work’ by GPs through the pandemic.
Please do use the communications toolkit shared if you find it helpful.
The pandemic continues to be very difficult for both our patients and practices and I’m grateful for the incredible work done by #PrimaryCare throughout 🙏🏽.
3/3 — Dr Nikita Kanani (@NikkiKF) September 15, 2020
Meanwhile, some doctors spoke out in defence of Dr Kanani, against some reactions which had focused on her personally rather than the content of the letter.
I don’t think this should be personal – NHSE is a controlling organisation and this will have come from the top. Full respect for Nikki personally, unfortunately this press release and outcome is typical of the culture of the organisation. — Steve Kell (@SteveKellGP) September 15, 2020
Appreciate your hard work – personal attacks are unjust — Sumi (@sumi_baruah) September 15, 2020
Meanwhile, the fallout continued, with BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul referring to the letter and communications in today’s opening speech to the BMA’s annual representatives meeting.
He said: ‘It’s an affront to hardworking GPs in England to imply they’ve shirked their responsibility to offer face-to-face appointments, when NHS England itself clearly directed GPs in April to provide online, telephone and video consultations and avoid face-to-face appointments unless absolutely necessary. This also flies in the face of the secretary of state’s own pronouncement on the July of 30th that GP appointments should be remote by default.
‘GPs, like hospital doctors, have worked flat out providing millions of appointments, including face-to-face, throughout the pandemic. They’ve responsibly followed instructions to prevent the spread of a deadly virus by limiting unnecessary contact between vulnerable patients and those who may be infectious mixing in the confined space of a waiting room.’]
NHS England’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.