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Without GP goodwill, I fear for this unprecedented winter

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Government advisors are warning that coronavirus is spreading again. If it continues at its current rate, they predict, we could be looking at 200 deaths a day by the middle of this month.

We haven’t experienced Covid in the winter, and it is a chilling thought. Ministers have rightly identified that we need a wider flu programme this year (although support for the practices tasked with carrying it out leaves a lot to be desired).

The BMA has – rightly – pointed out that winter pressures last all year now but, given the backlog of patients who did not present during the first lockdown, everything is pointing to a winter like no other.

GPs will be at the forefront. They will be the ones administering the flu vaccines. They will be the ones patients ask for help to distinguish the flu from Covid (unless the testing system works, ha ha). And they will be the ones to pick up the pieces as secondary care turns its attention back to Covid.

I feel that patients, being more used to Covid, will be less likely to stay away from the health service, and specifically already overburdened GP services. It is certain GPs will have to work above and beyond – and even further beyond than usual.

Looking ahead, if the chief medical officer is correct that we can expect a Covid vaccine in the first half of 2021, it will be great news but it will mean GPs dealing with one of the biggest public health programmes ever.

So, in order to get through whatever lies ahead, GPs’ goodwill – like that of the whole health service – is essential. But the NHS is doing its best to lose what little was left of it.

The press release from NHS England was boneheaded. Dr Martin Brunet makes some great points about how GPs shouldn’t take it too personally, but I can see this will be easier said than done.

Even those who have been doing everything required of them – namely the vast majority – have faced patients angry at the lack of face-to-face appointments. The headlines undermine patients’ trust in GPs when they are told it is clinically appropriate to consult remotely. 

I know many GPs found the ‘clap for the NHS’ slightly cringeworthy. But sentiments seem to have swung the other way, not thanking but denigrating.

But far more than appreciative applause, GPs need practical support this winter, starting with a stripping back of all the non-essential work they do. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely to happen.

The three primary care networks specifications – including the dreaded enhanced care homes service – are continuing as normal, and the additional roles promised to general practice aren’t helping much either.

As if that wasn’t enough, the CQC has announced it is restarting inspections (though all will be forgiven if it concentrates its efforts on scrutinising the ‘inadequate’ test and trace system).

The NHS can get quick wins with an official apology for its misguided press release, and a commitment to freeze all contractual work that doesn’t directly benefit patient care. These are incredibly soft demands. They won’t be enough to get us through this winter. But they will at least be a start.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at


Patrufini Duffy 30 September, 2020 6:23 pm

A clap and two stabs in the back. It’s the perennial wheel of slaughtering GPs in this lost and aimless country, that bashes GPs but is so addicted and dependant on them. 1 million appointments a day, and little appreciation with maximum targeting and bullying. Perhaps the most threatening employer is the NHS which itself needs dismantling and rethinking. The fabric of UK healthcare is currently slaughtering it’s front-line, quickly.

John Glasspool 30 September, 2020 7:35 pm

If any GP has any feeling of goodwill towards HMG they are either deluded or a Quisling.

Turn out The lights 30 September, 2020 8:36 pm

No goodwill a Thursday night clap and pan bang will not engender good will,it will just make us hate the job even more.Cant wait to get out ASAP and I am under 55.The exodus will become a torrent.

Paul Attwood 1 October, 2020 12:37 pm

Goodwill? Nope the NHS will try and run this by stick alone, if necessary. Just look at the treatment of Dr Sashi Shashikanth. Contract removed for seemingly being non compliant to their dictats.

Good luck with that NHS Hillingdon CCG. Hope it blows up in your faces.

David jenkins 1 October, 2020 4:35 pm

goodwill ?

that went out of the window in 1990, when ken clarke forced a new contract on us, and uttered the immortal words “i want general practices to be run like small businesses”

John Graham Munro 3 October, 2020 12:26 am

i too was drained of goodwill long before this pandemic

Andi Williams 5 October, 2020 12:48 pm

Please list things we should no longer do. Cqc, appraisals, qof targets, all non essential non gms work. No hospital dumping work. All minor stuff to pharmacies. No otc prescribing except in defined circumstances. Protected lunch breaks. All surgeries to close between 1 and 2pm and 111 to cover. Mandatory training for rhesus and safeguarding only. Max number of pt contacts per day agreed at less than 30. Limit complaints to serious misdomenors and provide all current practice payments till 2022 with no strings attached with unlimited cash for PPE. If physio can still refuse to see patients F2F for non urgent work why can’t we. Stop pcn work till 2022. Support us or lose us. It really is that simple.

Hot Felon 5 October, 2020 1:41 pm

Shortly leaving partnership age 56.
Not many days left now.
Good riddance and won’t miss you one bit.
Seriously weird partners, crap managers, horrendous workload, micromanaged to death by dumb NHSE, endless multiple risks.
Lined up for non partnership GP role until retirement (fairly soon).
Imagine having to do this shit until you’re 67?

John Graham Munro 7 October, 2020 9:11 am