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GPs hit back at claims practices are ‘not reopening until March’



GPs have denounced comments made by a national newspaper columnist who said she ‘heard a rumour that GP surgeries not reopening until March’.

Journalist Allison Pearson, who writes for The Telegraph, made the comment on Twitter and was met with hundreds of responses in disagreement, many of which were from GPs.

NHS England’s medical director of primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, was among those GPs who corrected Ms Pearson, explaining that ‘while consultations may have been offered remotely…our practices have been open’ throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

She described Ms Pearson’s comments as ‘unhelpful and unnecessary’.

Posting on Twitter, Dr Kanani said: ‘Whilst consultations may have been offered remotely or virtually to keep patients and staff safe, our practices have been open and offering care.’

Another GP on Twitter also pointed out that their practice conducted more than 12,000 GP consultations and 7,000 nurse consultations between March and June.

The GP, Dr Prakash Kachhala in Nottinghamshire, said: ‘I am a GP and this is simply untrue. GPs are open, but just like every other NHS service, we are trying to reduce footfall by remote consultation where possible.’

Many others cited how they have continued practising in the surgery despite being considered vulnerable to the virus themselves, felt the remark was scaring the public, and that they have spent the past months adapting to new models whilst dealing with the variety of issues traditionally seen in general practice.

GP Dr Ellie Cannon also added on Twitter: ‘I’m not sure how services that are open can reopen?

‘I have worked in surgery seeing patients throughtout lockdown, including bank holidays.’

Dr Neena Jha is one of the GPs who felt ‘insulted’ by Ms Pearson’s comments. The salaried GP in Hertfordshire told Pulse: ‘The insinuation that GPs have not worked and closed practices during the pandemic is frankly insulting.

‘We increased our appointment capacity, set up and run community hot sites and rapidly implemented virtual communications to optimise patient safety. All with no additional staffing.’

She added: ‘No patient with a clinical need (Covid and non-Covid) for a face-to-face appointment has been denied one. We have been pushed to our limits and sacrificed time away from our children. GP practices have never closed, and to suggest otherwise is offensive to the memory of all those GPs who lost their lives working during the pandemic.’

At the start of the pandemic GPs were asked by NHS England to move to a ‘total triage’ system and offer remote consultations as far as possible to reduce transmission of coronavirus.

Practices were also asked to treat the Easter bank holiday as a normal working day, while during Friday’s VE day bank holiday practice opening was left subject to local arrangements.