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 email@example.com or signing this Google form by midday Thursday 15 October. The letter will then be sent to the wider media
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)