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ICB issues warning to GPs opposing same-day hubs on social media

ICB issues warning to GPs opposing same-day hubs on social media

Exclusive GPs in North West London have been warned against ‘causing anxiety’ for patients by posting on social media about the ICB’s same-day hub plans. 

Last month, shortly after shelving proposals to effectively mandate same-day hubs, NWL ICB leaders held a meeting with over 200 GPs in which they were urged to be ‘aware’ of what they share online.

A recording of the meeting, obtained by Pulse, showed ICB chief medical officer Dr Charlotte Benjamin reminding GPs of GMC guidance on social media use. 

In February, Pulse revealed that NWL integrated care system (ICS), the third-largest in England, was planning to effectively mandate the use of same-day hubs via the enhanced services single offer.

But the plans faced backlash from local GPs and patients alike, and a month later the ICB confirmed that the proposals will not form part of the enhanced services offer for 2024/25.

Dr Benjamin told GPs in the area that one of the ‘unintended consequences’ of controversy around her ICB’s plans is a ‘real surge’ in ‘patient anxiety’.

‘We need to be particularly aware on social media that we need to have in the back of our minds what the impact may be in normal channels, but also on social media,’ she said. 

The chief medical officer then pointed attendees to recently updated GMC guidance on social media, which said doctors can be held accountable for what they say in private WhatsApp chats

She continued: ‘There is a sense of needing to be aware of the impact of the content on social media, for patient attitudes towards health, healthcare and other medical professionals.’

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Dr Benjamin also said she wants GPs to use their ‘wisdom and collective judgement’ to think about the impact on patients. 

‘[We] really need to think if we keep causing anxiety for our patients in the fundamental nature of general practice and primary care, we haven’t done them a service – so we all need to consider that,’ she warned. 

A GP in Ealing, who wished to remain anonymous, told Pulse these warnings show ‘the effective power of social media’ and of online accounts who are ‘often doing more individually’ to support patients than ‘all of our “leaders” collectively’.

The GP added: ‘Cheap GMC threats when it comes to raising serious patient safety concerns are extremely disappointing from senior NHS execs, who must be familiar with the scandal after scandal in the NHS when concerned doctors’ voices are ignored or silenced.’

Primary care medical director Dr Genevieve Small also told GPs at the meeting that there are ‘unintended consequences’ of the ‘noise’ around same-day hubs. 

She said: ‘And for me, this is the bit that’s actually keeping me awake at night. The bit that’s keeping me awake at night is that we have made our patients incredibly anxious. And they have felt that general practice as they know it is ending on the 1st April and that they won’t be able to see their GP anymore.’

‘So I really think we have to think about how we come together to address some of their fears and concerns,’ Dr Small added.

Pulse approached North West London ICB for comment.

The BMA GP Committee deputy chair recently said ICB leaders planning same-day hubs ‘do not care about GPs’, and the proposals are ‘all about’ reducing A&E attendances rather than improving general practice.



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

Darren Tymens 26 April, 2024 12:03 pm

Once again, threats of the GMC are being used by NHS Managers to keep troublesome GPs in-line, and to stop them voicing entirely valid and well-informed personal opinions and patient-safety concerns.
This is surely not what a regulator is for? Isn’t this more evidence of a broken regulator?
Perhaps the GMC itself might like to comment on these threats, and dispel any anxieties that they will take any action, in order to restore some credibility?

Grant Jonathan Ingrams 26 April, 2024 12:23 pm

I hope the LMC are all over this. If this occurred in my area we would have already written demanding a full and public apology, reminding them of the GMC requirements to treat colleagues with “kindness, courtesy and respect” not to “bully or harass anyone” for any reason, that doctors must be honest (and if they believe that the propose change will adversely effect patient care to raise this). Indeed, on review it would appear that the so called leaders have more to fear from a GMC referral.

Bob Hodges 26 April, 2024 12:48 pm

Perhaps Dr Benjamin need to reflect on how to #BeKind with her appraiser.

Pathetic threats of GMC referra are a form of coercion that could ultimately be viewed as unlawful by the way, especially from someone occupying a postion in a public (statutory) body analogous to a civil service post.

Centreground Centreground 26 April, 2024 1:13 pm

ICBs continue themselves through their ongoing perceived dismantling of Primary Care and fragmentation of services in the eyes of many, to raise the risk of further anxiety to patients and potential unknown risks.
ICBs are responsible in terms of being answerable to the taxpayer and the public/professionals they supposedly serve and the aim of closing down comment is a deplorable act of the utmost seriousness.
These are genuine concerns raised by experienced professionals who in many instances believe they are being ignored and hence have a professional and ethical duty to raise concerns via any means accessible to patients or colleagues and this includes social media.
The ICBs would do well to remember they are also answerable to any relevant regulatory body the latter who themselves require to be proportionate in their responses .
Furthermore, ICBs also carry their own corporate liability should harm come to patients.
In our local area, significant numbers of ICB board members are on salaries with benefits pro rata in the region of £200,000 per year so if you are not able to accept justified debate on any ICB policy of any type in any region please consider resigning.

Nick Mann 26 April, 2024 3:08 pm

Put another way, ICBs’ unevidenced policy, without a necessary and appropriate public consultation is alleged to have caused anxiety among patients.
Patients will indeed be anxious that they have not been properly consulted by the ICBs.
Proposed major changes to general practice have not been conducted in the proper manner by ICBs.
ICBs have responded by threatening doctors who are raising legitimate concerns.
ICBs have not conducted proper analysis, impact assessments, public consultation, professional consultation, or academic inquiry.
It would appear that the ICBs are unquestioningly being directed by NHSE and management consultancies to fundamentally alter the way that general practice operates.
If ICBs think that’s ok and believe they can silence professionals’ valid concerns by fear and threats, think again.
Patients will rightly be anxious due to ICBs’ secretive and unevidenced changes to medical care. ICBs have a lot of questions to answer.

So the bird flew away 26 April, 2024 3:49 pm

If this CMO was intending to produce a chilling effect on GPs right to freedom of speech to advocate for their patients, then the comments above should have her rightly feeling an ICB stooge by now…

Northern Trainer 26 April, 2024 10:11 pm

So who do you all think is holding any ICB to account? No one. Absolutely no one.

Angela Parker 1 May, 2024 12:30 pm

So much for the right to free speech !!
After the decision to sack a doctor for going on a personal protest for climate change this is really rather gagging
Is it not against the Duties of a Doctor ?
If there is a problem with provision of service or a dander to them then is iit not Duty to publicise the situation and like the possible complications of an operation fully inform the patients about the pitfalls and outcomes good and bad that might ensue ?
Do we need to amend the Duties to add “ Never be whistleblower” or speak truth to power ?