An open letter from grassroots GPs highlighting the profession’s concern about ‘inaccurate and harmful’ media messages about access to care has received over 400 signatures.
The letter, which Pulse published in full last week, said GPs and their teams are concerned ‘about inaccurate and potentially harmful messages coming from media and social media outlets regarding access to care within general practice during the pandemic’.
It follows last month’s controversy which saw NHS England sent out a press release to media outlets about a system letter to GPs ‘reminding’ them to see patients face to face where needed.
The authors were also concerned by a recent Telegraph article which suggested ‘a million’ fewer patients are seen by GPs each month.
The letter was penned by Hertfordshire GPs Dr Simon Hodes and Dr Neena Jha, with high-profile signatories includimg former RCGP chair Professor Dame Clare Gerada, Professor Azeem Majeed, Professor Frances Mair and Professor Steve Cox.
The letter said: ‘We are concerned that patients may falsely think that they are unable to see their NHS GP due to Covid-19, or may be unaware how to access care.’
Dr Hodes told Pulse: ‘There is a sense of needing to speak up for the profession, not only to refute the false and insulting allegations that GPs have been closed, but also to ensure that patients know how to access our care.
‘Many are concerned that harmful false media reports can send the wrong message to patients, pushing them to use A&E, or to not attend at all.’
He added: ‘The workforce is exhausted from fighting Covid, while being expected to continue routine aspects like QOF. This is yet another example of grassroots collaboration between GPs to help and support one another.’
Dr Jha said: ‘Primary care staff have been pushed to their limits and we have devastatingly lost treasured colleagues along the way. To read misleading allegations that GPs have been closed is offensive to the entire work force. Our primary concern is the impact of these misleading messages on patient care as those who believe this rhetoric may not seek help for worrying symptoms.
‘Responsible reporting is a patient safety issue.
‘I’ve never been prouder to stand alongside my primary care colleagues and to see the support for our one unified goal, which is and always has been care for our patients.’
However, the ongoing advice from NHS England is that practices should remotely triage all patients whilst the Covid-19 pandemic continues.
On Friday, Pulse exclusively revealed that both NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and health minister Jo Churchill have met with the BMA’s GP Committee regarding the letter about face-to-face GP appointments, the press release and subsequent media coverage.
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that there was ‘recognition of the concerns’ he raised and said he had ‘called on both NHS England and the Government to demonstrate that in their actions’.