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The message must be loud and clear

GP practices open

This week I appeared for the second time on the Downing Street Covid briefing. And for the second time, the health secretary completely failed to answer my question.

Fear not, I have enough life experience – ie, I’ve watched the news at least once – to know that a politician will do their utmost to avoid answering a question. But this was galling. Because mine was a question that desperately needed answering.

If you missed it, I asked what non urgent work he will be removing from GPs to free up time for them to carry out the Covid vaccination programme, the biggest ever (surpassing the previous biggest programme ever, the current flu programme that GPs are already doing). In response, we got the usual platitudes, thanking GPs and their teams. But no indication of any actual changes.

Although expected, it was disappointing and further proof that nothing will change. GPs will simply have to fit this vaccination programme within their current workload – an understandably impossible job for some.

The importance of this vaccine means it is the priority. But the BMA and NHS England have to start with the messaging to patients now: there will be fewer appointments, that GPs won’t be able to manage your long-term condition as they would ideally like to and that you might be offered a remote consultation instead of a face to face. And make clear that this is the price of GPs saving the nation.

Because I tell you one thing – you can’t rely on Matt Hancock to send this message once patients start complaining, despite his meaningless platitudes this week.

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


John Graham Munro 18 November, 2020 12:30 pm


David jenkins 18 November, 2020 3:09 pm

three choices for mr handcock:

1 – more staff to manage this extra work

2 – stop doing rubbish tasks so we can do this extra work (think appraisal, revalidation, cqc, qof etc etc etc).

3 – carry on doing rubbish tasks and don’t do this extra work

i told an old farmer in his 80s earlier on this year “you need to slow down a bit, you’ve got too many irons in the fire”

his reply “that’s true – but which iron do i take out ?”

the same farmer said to me a few years ago “a bank will lend you money any time – but they’ll ask for it back when it starts raining”

one of the wisest people i know !

Luqman Rajput 18 November, 2020 6:14 pm

I believe that Jaimie has hit the nail on its head with the comment regarding Mr Hancock suggesting that primary care will not be supported. That worries me!

Philip Park 18 November, 2020 6:34 pm

If only we had a medical union that would fight our corner…….. hmm

John Graham Munro 19 November, 2020 10:01 am


Mr Marvellous 19 November, 2020 1:24 pm

The problem is that HMG have no incentive to offer better terms.

The current terms (and it’s likely that many practices will end up doing this at a loss) will be lapped up.

If the profession got together as a group and said “No, we can’t do this with the current offering” they’d have to come back with more. But it’ll never happen.

Mr Marvellous 19 November, 2020 1:24 pm

Forgot to say. well done to Jamie for at least asking the question. No-one else does…