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‘We are concerned about inaccurate and harmful media messages around GPs’

‘We are concerned about inaccurate and harmful media messages around GPs’

A group of GPs have written an open letter in response to the GP bashing in the media. You can sign the letter by putting your name in the comments below, emailing or signing this Google form by midday Thursday 15 October. The letter will then be sent to the wider media

We, the undersigned, are all working in, or retired from, NHS GP teams. We are all concerned about inaccurate and potentially harmful messages coming from media and social media outlets regarding access to care within general practice during the pandemic. We are concerned that patients may falsely think that they are unable to see their NHS GP due to Covid-19, or may be unaware how to access care.

We would like to make the following points:

1. Primary care delivers over 300 million consultations per year (compared with 23 million A&E visits). We are concerned that without the correct message on access, patients might use 111, walk in centres or A&E instead of contacting their own GP. Even a small inappropriate shift of care away from GPs will add further pressure on our hospital colleagues at this critical time for the NHS.

2. We are concerned that patients might neglect their ongoing (chronic) medical conditions.

3. We are extremely concerned that patients might not attend with new, potentially serious cancer (‘red flag’) symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, unexpected blood in urine/poo, or a new lump. We would urge anyone with these symptoms (or other concerns) to please contact their GP as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to improved outcomes.

4. Many GPs now have electronic web enquiry forms (called E-consultations), found on their practice NHS website. If you want to contact your GP this may be the simplest way to do so now, and response is normally within 48 hours but often quicker. If it is more urgent then we suggest that you call your GP practice directly. Out of working hours please use the NHS App, or try 111 online or by phone. (999 in extreme emergency only).

5. We are aware that not all patients use computers, and are concerned about potential ‘digital exclusion’. Patients that are unable or uncomfortable to use web enquiry forms, can phone their GP practice as usual.

6. We would like to make it clear that GP teams have been seeing patients face-to-face (wearing PPE) throughout the pandemic. We still are, and numbers are increasing. However, all appointments are now arranged on a case-by-case basis following careful remote assessment. As part of your telephone or video consultation, your GP will assess the safest and most appropriate way to deal with your issue, and should arrange for you to be seen in person by a member of the team if necessary. Your safety is our primary concern and this is the main factor dictating the type of consultation offered, similar to our hospital colleagues. This is guidance from NHS chiefs, and is purely to protect patients, as well as our teams.

7. Despite often being referred to as the ‘NHS Test and Trace system’, test and trace is a private system. Although GPs have been seeing patients throughout the pandemic, and despite the fact that we are local, trusted, hold full patients records and are responsible for many other tests, GPs have not been given the option to help order Covid swabs. This is baffling to many GPs, especially those working in ‘Hot Covid Hubs’ but is beyond our control.

8. We call upon the Government to immediately postpone the many administrative tasks placed on GPs, which add little to patient care. We also call upon NHS chiefs to release known ring-fenced funds (for example the ARRS) which were earmarked for primary care, so that they can be urgently utilised for patient care.

9. Patient access and excellent care is a top priority for the profession. GPs often make a long-term commitment to serve a particular area and build unique, strong relationships within their communities. Along with the rest of the NHS, we are doing our best to adapt to the essential changes that Covid-19 has imposed. If you are ever unhappy with any aspect of your care, you should raise the issue with your practice manager or your GP.

10. Finally: We are aware that in some areas patients are struggling with access to their GP, apologise for this and can assure you that our leaders are aware. There is a known shortage of GPs in the UK, and this is exacerbated by unfair ‘GP media bashing’ which damages morale. The UK GP crisis is a long-standing issue, unfortunately often worse in deprived areas for various reasons, further compounding health inequalities. Despite political promises to increase GP numbers, there have been falling numbers of NHS GPs in recent years. It is essential that this is addressed, so that access to primary care can be strengthened and improved fairly for everyone who needs it.

We all care deeply for the health of the nation as well as for you – our individual patients. We believe it is essential that the true messages on access to general practice are conveyed, so that the NHS is used appropriately. This will truly protect the NHS.

We thank you for reading this letter, and ask you to share widely. We hope this information helps you know how to contact us. We are here for you and we hope that you can #HelpUsToHelpYou


Dr Simon Hodes, GP, Watford

Professor Azeem Majeed, GP and professor of primary care, Imperial College

Professor Frances Mair, GP and professor of primary care research, University of Glasgow

Professor Steve Cox, GP and visiting professor, University of Chester

Dr Helen Salisbury GP and honourary senior lecturer, University of Oxford

+ 37 other GPs (as of 5pm, 13 October 2020)



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

Azeem Majeed 13 October, 2020 5:14 pm

Happy to support. Thank you Pulse for publishing.

The Prime Minister 14 October, 2020 10:15 am

The government “use” the media as proxies to attack GPs but it is a massive own goal for the brainless government as they are exacerbating the GP workforce crisis…….

Ismat Nasiruddin 14 October, 2020 11:52 am

this doesnt address the national issue of rising patient complaints -and the need for clear government messaging that we are open, but having to work (and most of us are not at home) in different ways!
The mixed messaging is causing patient frustartion, vented in unbelievable levels of complaints re access and continuity with no awareness of the enormous demand and workload we are facing currently……
I think the message that we are open is out there but the wave of demand is fuelled with anger and frustration-which is really difficult for colleagues who are working intensely.

sarah craven 14 October, 2020 11:52 am

I support the content of this letter and I am happy to be quoted in the media. Sarah Craven

Dave Haddock 14 October, 2020 1:31 pm

Many GPs have done excellent work in very difficult circumstances. However there are practices that have locked the doors and hidden behind electronic barbed wire.

Ashfaq Ahmed 14 October, 2020 1:33 pm

This is a really soft letter. This letter is only concerned about how the media output is affecting patient care and is essentially a press release explaining that we are. That’s a fine objective in itself. But this doesn’t address the harm that the harmful GP bashing does to GPs and other healthcare workers at all. Typical GPs, never actually defending themselves or each other in any meaningful way. In point 10 there’s some whining about morale and political promises but even those points are prefaced by…an apology! For goodness’ sake. This letter is bad for my morale. We have no nerve at all.

Simon Gilbert 14 October, 2020 1:36 pm

Our consultation rate is running at 9.2% of our population each week and our true demand is higher than that. Resources to primary care need to start following need.

Joshua Stranders 14 October, 2020 8:09 pm

Fully agree with the content of this letter and happy to add my signed support.

Kaye Ward 14 October, 2020 9:11 pm

Signed on behalf of my practice -Dr Kaye Ward

Mercedes Franco 15 October, 2020 1:30 pm

Consider it signed. Since lock down started I have done 1800 consultations….

Hot Felon 16 October, 2020 12:11 pm

Oh petition all you like, losers.
Do you think HMG gives a flying …. ?
Meanwhile the very same petitioners will be frothing for the next webinar, eager for the next covid update and thrilled to have touchy feely PCN chats on Teams.
ha ha ha ha

Hot Felon 16 October, 2020 12:13 pm

oh, and hashtag huggy touchy feely while we’re at it!

Kenneth Lim 17 October, 2020 10:13 am

@Hot Felon: who are you and where do you practise?

Ankur Bhatnagar 17 October, 2020 11:09 am

Happy to support this letter .
Dr Ankur Bhatnagar Parkview medical Practice

Peter Maksimczyk 17 October, 2020 11:34 am

I fully support this letter.
Peter Maksimczyk

Mark Fentanyl 17 October, 2020 4:03 pm

Why are you apologising? Why are you agonising about hospital colleagues? Why are you talking about “leaders”? Why are you inviting complaints for ever being unhappy? Weak, anaemic, anodyne- get your haematinics checked, and if you can’t correct your acquired exomphalos at least get a plain X-ray to confirm you still qualify for Class Chordata.

Alistair Clark 19 October, 2020 4:47 pm

Fully agree with this letter. We are busier than ever and have been for several months. We telephone triage every consultation but see face to face, video or telephone as patients request or clinical need. The media’s comments are demoralising and a kick in the teeth.

Patrufini Duffy 21 October, 2020 2:41 pm

NHSE and DoH have certain individuals who are unnamed, protected and untouchable. They are secretly pupeteering you and health policy. Because you are standing in the way of privatisation. Find some joy…where they choose to extinguish it, and you.

John Graham Munro 22 October, 2020 9:26 pm


Slobbering Spaniel 22 October, 2020 10:53 pm

The strength of this reply does not match the sneaky, underhanded nastiness of the original attack.