The BMA has written to the Telegraph in response to Allison Pearson’s ‘completely unfair’ column, in which she said she is ‘not surprised’ GPs have received a torrent of abuse.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said in a letter to the national newspaper that he read the column with ‘despair and anger’ and that it serves ‘no good purpose’.
Ms Pearson’s column, titled ‘GPs are improving their work-life balance while worsening the life-death balance of everyone else’, was published in yesterday’s Telegraph.
In the comment piece, Ms Pearson refers to the BMA as ‘shameless’ and claims the pandemic has given the doctor’s union ‘an excuse to string out the crisis indefinitely for their own selfish ends’.
Ms Pearson said: ‘How about the doctors’ union tries being “kind and considerate” to patients by not insisting on strict Covid measures (more unnecessary by the day) which supposedly keep their members “safe” while jeopardising the health of the population.’
The BMA said in response that ‘[t]here is nothing unnecessary about practical steps such as physical distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene which keep patients and staff safe’ and that a recent BMA survey found the majority of the public support these steps.
‘We know that remote appointments are not perfect with everyone, and GPs themselves have their own frustrations with current processes,’ it added.
The BMA pointed out that since March 2020 ‘there have been nearly 370 million patient appointments in England – 200 million of which were in-person – at the same time as GPs and their teams moving heaven and earth to lead the Covid vaccination campaign’.
‘Meanwhile, the number of patients per practice is 22% higher than it was six years ago, leading GPs to report working an average of 11-hour days. These are not figures that show a better work-life balance for the family doctor.’
Dr Vautrey added regarding the column: ‘[S]uch constant undermining and chastising will push [GPs] further towards the door, leaving us with even fewer GPs and making it even more difficult for patients to get the treatment they need.’
The RCGP has also taken a stand against Ms Pearson’s piece, with their response published in Friday’s Telegraph.
Professor Martin Marshall wrote: ‘When are some elements of the media going to stop attacking GPs? GPs and patients are on the same side here, and we share our patients’ frustrations when they can’t get an appointment or face long waits trying to get through to the surgery.
‘General practice has been open throughout the pandemic and we have continued to see patients face to face where safe and appropriate, in line with government guidance on infection control. ‘
GPs responded on Twitter that they were doing everything they can and said they felt ‘demoralised’ and ‘exhausted’.
This comes as a BMA survey found that more than half of GPs have faced verbal abuse from patients or those accompanying them in the last month and one in five has been threatened.
In August 2020, GPs denounced comments made by Ms Pearson that she ‘heard a rumour that GP surgeries not reopening until March’.