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BMA blasts ‘completely unfair’ newspaper column suggesting GPs deserve abuse

BMA blasts ‘completely unfair’ newspaper column suggesting GPs deserve abuse

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’.

And in December 2017, the Telegraph ran a story with the headline: ‘Here is an idea to fix the NHS: let’s get rid of GPs’, which called for more digital services.

A recent Pulse survey of 1,400 UK GPs found GPs are dealing with an average of 37 patients daily – far more than the 28 patients they believe is the safe daily limit in the pandemic.



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

John Glasspool 26 August, 2021 6:00 pm

Is the DT- a rag for working-class fascists who won’t change their minds whatever the evidence, so don’t let it raise your BP.

Decorum Est 26 August, 2021 7:23 pm

I love this:
‘Articles by Allison Pearson | The Telegraph, Planet Normal Journalist
“Good luck with that!” (says Allison P) “Yeah, right.” “You’ve got more chance of getting into Kabul airport than of breaking into our surgery.” Or simply, “What’s a GP?” Those …’
Dear Allison, highly suspect that you (and yours) have private medical care (likely as a perk from DT). You really don’t care about primary healthcare provision in the UK (as you don’t need it). And for those that do need primary healthcare in the UK, congratulations on your efforts to ‘finish it of’.
Reminds me of the Leonard Cohen song, ‘Everybody Knows’ and you have sold your soul…

John Graham Munro 26 August, 2021 8:57 pm

Why do these demoralised and exhausted G.Ps at least get a locum or two in? ——because they’re too expensive see, and they’d rather jeopardise their mental health instead—–I’ve offered my services to my Practice, but it is about to enter its sixth week of staff ill-health—-I predict there will be a miraculous recovery once the kids have gone back to school—- Allison Pearson says surgeries are stringing out Covid crisis, couldn’t agree more—–now, surgeries have been rumbled

Reply moderated
Ben Porter 26 August, 2021 9:03 pm

JGM have you reflected on why it is a practice chooses to forego your assistance even if it adds to already intolerable workloads?

Slobber Dog 26 August, 2021 9:11 pm

I bet NHSE are enjoying this.

Dr N 26 August, 2021 9:49 pm

Who gives a toss what Katie Hopkins’ites say. Responding just gives these bitter, twisted, personality disordered morons oxygen.

Decorum Est 26 August, 2021 10:17 pm

Why do you continue to accept the offensive and ignorant posts from the ‘supposed doctor’ John Graham Munro? He is not a medic (his ignorance of medical reality is profound and obvious). His attitude is ‘Hopkinsite’.
You’re allowing a Daily Mail (or similarly financed troll), to corrupt your site.

Decorum Est 26 August, 2021 10:24 pm

‘I’ve offered my services to my Practice, but……’. as per John Graham Munro
Anybody surprised that your offer was declined?

‘my Practice’ – like, what’s that?

John Graham Munro 27 August, 2021 12:38 am

I really cannot understand why I seem to upset you all—-however, as a consolation, The Moderator has threatened to ban me three times in the past—-but having convinced him that I am no misogynist and that I incline towards feminism, I was let off—- my comments are based personal experience as a full time partner, a salaried partner, and countless locum positions—–to preserve my sanity took time out and worked as a zoo keeper and cinema projectionist after chatting to a psychiatrist friend

I am now off to relax and listen to the Russian National Anthem

Hello My name is 27 August, 2021 10:35 am

The BMA might be kept busy if they are going to respond to every comment piece complaining about the GP service – there’s another in the Times today. (Although I suspect this journalist will not be attacked with quite the vigour that Allison Pearson got) Maybe time to look inward and reflect the service might indeed not be good enough, and the public are entitled to complain? Solutions on a postcard.

David Jarvis 27 August, 2021 11:05 am

Right. So we either need more resources or accept crapper service. Good , fast ,cheap choice but not all 3. GP surgeries have absorbed a huge amount of extra workload in my 25 years. But as the contract is block this is not matched with resource. So there isn’t the money to attract more people in order to deliver the service. So the solution may well be co-pay that works pretty well in our European neighbours but mkes no money for big private insurers as the american system does. But frankly the public vote for the government and get what they choose. Nobody sems to vote for more tax like Scandinavia. So not sure I care if the overspill lands in A&E as they get paid per contact. More for one contact than primary care gets a year. So not all their work is comparable but I suspect the primary care stuff is highly profitable for them. But 21 million in A&E to 340million in primary care. If A&E thinks it is bad now wait as practices collapse for the tsunami heading their way.
But I have dropped to 3 days a week because I quite frankly can’t manage much more of it at my age. Nobody has done anything to encourage me to keep going. LTA and AA on pensions, loss of seniority allowance, 60% tax between 100-125000. Appraisal, CQC. The press are a minor irritation. Colleagues with no insight of the modern reality sniping from a feeling of superiority and behind anonymity more upsetting. If you can’t put your name to it does that mean your ashamed to say it. Anonymity has it’s place but should be justified and decloaked if abused.

Not Arvind Madan 27 August, 2021 1:04 pm

John Graham Munro

You do wonder why his local practice refuses to take him on as a locum???


The strongest word you could think of was that her comments were……….unfair???

Patrufini Duffy 27 August, 2021 2:16 pm

Allison Pearson should know that the maximum dose of sertraline is 200mg. Just saying.

The Prime Minister 27 August, 2021 2:18 pm


John Graham Munro 28 August, 2021 11:10 pm

The Prime Minister——–There are still plenty of locums——trouble is, they don’t come free—-I am one

Grant Jonathan Ingrams 30 August, 2021 1:10 pm

As Dr John Munro must be at least 76 and had resigned from GP GMC register 4 years ago – do you think they were being kind when declining his offer of help due to probably being out of date???

Grant Jonathan Ingrams 30 August, 2021 1:17 pm

You retired from the GP GMC register 5 years ago …. Perhaps they were concerned you may not be up to date with current medical practice??? Do not thing the PM would want to be treated by someone who had not done the role for that long. General Practice has changed enormously in the past 5 years.

John Graham Munro 31 August, 2021 9:26 am

Restored to the Register 17 months ago——been doing locum work since by just using common sense——patients have not changed that much

Tim Atkinson 1 September, 2021 1:16 pm

The waiting times for elective surgery are the longest for 15 years but I have yet to hear any criticism of orthopaedic surgeons, urologists, ophthalmologists etc. In the media.
A&E are missing their waiting time targets but there’s not a word of dissent aimed at A&E drs.
Familiarity clearly breeds contempt.

john mackay 2 September, 2021 10:50 am

Strange that we never hear NHSE having to defend the primary care services that they are responsible for.
I wonder why?

Josef Kuriacose 13 September, 2021 3:42 am

Consultation rates have gone up 3X in the last 20 years. Inevitably, this leads to longer waiting times for appointments. Patients do find it very hard to get appointments, they cannot equate it to the long hours we work. Personally, the work was getting so intense and unbearable, I had to reduce my hours [ and pay ] by half to survive. I can enjoy the practice of medicine this way and cope with life. We need the golf game or the long walks to clear our heads. But, as more doctors do this for their sanity, patients wait longer, so we are seen as a golf playing, uncaring profession. These articles have been printed in papers for many years, even when I was doing 80 hour weekends. We should have appointment based Contracts, so it is easy for all sides to see we fulfill our side of the work. But the ARMs votes against this year on year. As long as we have list based Contracts with increasing consultation rates, we will always keep patients waiting. Appointment based Contracts will not solve this overnight, but the Govt. will need to pay more for consultations and GPs will get defined workloads. It will encourage more GPs to enter and fewer GPs to leave GP land. The current system does not serve GPs [ their lot is more and more work each year] nor patients [ they wait longer and longer too].