Primary care minister Jo Churchill has thanked GPs for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic, in an open letter published today.
She praised GPs and general practice staff for ‘adapting’ their services to protect staff and the patients from the virus, but also for continuing to see patients face to face.
The letter comes after Pulse revealed that Ms Churchill met with the BMA’s GP Committee to discuss the ‘appalling slur’ which was NHS England’s recent ‘reminder’ to GPs to see patients in person.
The letter said: ‘We have been struck by the unprecedented pace at which general practice has adapted in response to Covid-19. Transforming the way primary care services operate. Introducing total triage, delivering remote consultations alongside face-to-face appointments in order to serve as many patients as possible, while protecting staff and the public from risk of infection.’
GPs and colleagues ‘have worked hard to identify and offer proactive care to shielded and high-risk patients, to provide much-needed primary care services to care home residents, and more recently to support the delivery of an expanded flu programme’, it added.
‘For many of you, workload is as high, if not higher, than at this point last year and now all being delivered in a COVID-tinged world. We remain hugely grateful for the efforts GPs and all practice staff continue to make to support all of us when we need you,’ Ms Churchill wrote.
However she went on to warn that ‘it goes without saying that we face a very tough winter’, with Covid infections ‘rising again as we all move into a period of further nationwide restrictions this week’.
In response, she said the NHS must ‘work together’ to ‘ensure all patients can access the services they need as safely as possible’, whether with Covid or other symptoms.
And she said: ‘As GPs, you are uniquely placed to give patients confidence that they can receive safe, effective care remotely, and that they can get face-to-face appointments when needed. Demonstrating that, although the delivery mechanism may have changed, their care remains at the heart of everything you do.
‘We rely on and trust general practice to prioritise clinical needs to help us achieve this. It won’t be easy, but we know that you and your colleagues will rise to the challenge.’
However, the ongoing advice from NHS England is that practices should remotely triage all patients whilst the Covid-19 pandemic continues.
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse last month that he recently had meetings with both primary care minister Ms Churchill, and Sir Simon, to discuss the issue ‘in detail’.