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Media message that it’s ‘impossible’ to see a GP ‘must end’ as practices continue to face abuse

Media message that it’s ‘impossible’ to see a GP ‘must end’ as practices continue to face abuse

The media rhetoric that it is ‘virtually impossible’ to see a GP needs to end, since it’s adding to the continual abuse of practice staff, the Practice Managers’ Association (PMA) has said. 

Instead, PMA’s director, Ian Jones said that compassion must be shown to GPs, practice managers and receptionists, who are already under enough pressure without claims about lack of access being touted. 

Mr Jones said the rhetoric had been going on ‘for some time’ and had now turned into a ‘political hot potato’.

‘The more the line is pedalled out, the more people believe it and the more damage it does,’ he said. 

‘GPs are seeing thousands of patients face to face – in addition to offering telephone consultations, which some people prefer.’

He added: ‘We’d hate to think the rhetoric was stopping patients picking up the phone. But the over-riding message is this – we know there are big waiting times in some areas, but GPs and practice staff are working flat out with the resources they have. Isolated incidents are being portrayed as “the norm”.’

It comes as the latest data from NHS Digital showed there were 26 million appointments in general practice in July, with over 44% of those being on the same day as they were booked.

Last month, it was revealed that ‘inaccurate and unfair’ negative media coverage of GPs in UK newspapers is contributing to workforce stress and the retention crisis.

In September, Pulse’s sister title Management in Practice spoke to one surgery that had lost eight members of staff due to high levels of abuse.

The practice manager at Chapelgreen practice in Sheffield, Blake Foster, cited media coverage as one of the contributing factors.

‘Generally, there is a high level of demand and expectation and an unwillingness to wait,’ he told Management in Practice.

‘People want everything now and, on their terms, and we just can’t deliver that. It tends to worsen after media coverage where a negative opinion has been shared on general practice or the NHS, perhaps by politicians.  That seems to ignite the flame and make the abuse worse.’

The former health secretary’s plans to publish practice-level appointment data from this month are to go ahead under her successor, Pulse revealed last week.

Thérèse Coffey’s ‘expectation’ for GPs to see non-urgent patients within two weeks also still stands.

The BMA recently called for ‘stiffer sentences’ for those who attack healthcare workers including GPs and practice staff.

And one GP practice is now trialling a ‘meet and greet’ reception, having stopped its regular face-to-face offering following abuse from patients.

A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title Management in Practice



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Patrufini Duffy 9 November, 2022 3:12 pm

I conceded to 2 nannying face to face this week. Adamant. No signs, symptoms or pain. Just boredom and loneliness. The health service is being crippled by 20-35 year olds, call it out.

fareed bhatti 9 November, 2022 9:51 pm

I would really like to see some news about ‘Impossible to see….Cardiologist/neurologist/dermatologist/ gastroenterologist/ spinal surgeon/ thoracic surgeon/ cardiac surgeon et al !’ -It could be a standard headline and based on leader boards, the rest of the specialities could just be crossed out in that days paper. Just for variety.
Half of the day job seems to be writing letters like ‘Can you just £^%&ing see this lovely now half dead gentleman/lady who was referred in June and she hasn’t heard a peep out of you, and her family are threatening to take over the surgery !’

Dave Haddock 10 November, 2022 7:41 pm

Just tried to book an appointment with my registered Practice.
No appointments currently available.

S. Ali 10 November, 2022 9:21 pm

I have had a lot of people moan to me that they cannot get an appointment this year. With the exception for obvious reason those that are not even registered, every patient of ours that has moaned has seen a GP within 2 weeks and has had no less than 20 encounters this year alone, the common issue being wanting a twimc letter for secondary gain

We have actually stopped doing full taxi medicals/specific non-NHS work, as pt were joining the practice for these to be done quickly with abuse of reception staff until they get an appointment, take up multiple appointments then leaving the practice still saying they cannot get an appointment

Dave Haddock 14 November, 2022 4:51 pm

Update on my attempt to get a GP appointment.
I now have an appointment; it’s a telephone appointment, despite having a problem definitely needing a face to face appointment, but thats all that was available.

David Church 3 January, 2023 5:55 pm

This media message is just NOT TRUE AT ALL in most places – although there are 1 or 2 practices who are not doing so well.
The last 3 practices I worked in (as locum for GP absent due to illness, leave, or departure, not just an extra body for the day) have all had normal appointments available on the day up until mid-afternoon, although anyone just asking for ‘an appointment’ gets a phone call from one of us first to see if we need to drag them in (some live a way out of town!) or can fix it over phone. And anything urgent can be squeezed in as extra by Receptionist – if they feel like it.
Most are things we can fix over phone – although would prefer not to have to, such as moans about hospital waits, admin for BA/JC, etc, and unavailability of prescribed medications.
Friday before Christmas I phoned one patient within hours of his being added to the list, and about 2 hours before the expected phone appointment time, and tried to offer him an F2F that afternoon between 1330 and 1700, but he was too busy. I apologised that I would not be there on the Saturday (that’s 24th December for the calendrically challenged), so he asked for an appointment on the sunday, and I apologised that surgery was closed on the Sunday (what date do you think that was?), and also that there appeared to be something called a ‘bank holiday’ occurring on both Monday and Tuesday following.
The Patient did not feel his acute new problem warranted breaking up his afternoon with friends to attend surgery even for a short consultation on the Friday as I offered, so I advised that he phone on Wednesday to report progress of the issue over the weekend, but if it deteriorated or concerned him over the weekend, to phone the OOH line for further advice.
I wonder if he attended A&E on Sunday 25th?