Health secretary Sajid Javid pulled out of the RCGP’s annual conference today after the Government and NHS published its ‘rescue plan’ for general practice this morning.
It comes as the NHS today announced winter funding of £250m for general practice to ‘increase the proportion of appointments delivered face to face’, which the BMA said is ‘flawed’ and ‘patient care will suffer as a result’.
The health secretary could not attend RCGP’s annual conference due to other commitments, leaving GPs attending the conference disappointed.
Instead, Mr Javid went to meet staff at the Vale Medical Centre in south-east London, and thanked GPs via an opinion piece for the Daily Mail.
BMA GP Trainees Committee Chair and GP registrar Euan Strachan-Orr said on Twitter the health secretary was ‘disgraceful’ for not engaging with GPs, and that his absence ‘highlights how out of touch the government is with the crisis in general practice’.
SAGE committee member Dr Zubaida Haque said: ‘The unbelievable irony of Sajid Javid, Health Secretary (who has been carrying out a smear campaign against GPs in the media) FAILING to turn up for his first *face to face* appointment with GPs.’
Sheffield GP Dr Alan Shirley labelled Mr Javid as ‘too frit to come and defend it in front of GPs’.
And the shadow health secretary said it is ‘no wonder Sajid Javid is hiding from GPs’ and that his promise to guarantee appointments is ‘already unraveling’.
The Department of Health and Social Care asked Pulse to clarify that Mr Javid did go and meet GPs face-to-face today, just not the ones at the RCGP conference.
A DHSC source told Pulse: ‘We had never said we were doing this. Ministers get invited to lots of conferences and aren’t able to attend all of them.
‘The health secretary has been spending his time working on our plan to support GPs and this morning has been setting that out including meeting with GPs on the frontline. It is incorrect to say it was ever scheduled.’
It follows Mr Javid saying in the House of Commons it was ‘high time’ GPs offer more face-to-face appointments amid months of lobbying from sections of the media for practices to see patients face-to-face.
But last week Mr Javid expressed his backing for remote GP consultations at a Conservative Party Conference event, noting they are here to stay ‘post-pandemic’ and ‘a lot of people actually prefer’ them.
This article has been updated at the request of the DHSC.