1,600 GPs back complaint over media coverage of access to primary care

Around 1,600 GPs and hundreds of other signatories have backed a complaint to the press standards watchdog by the Doctors Association UK (DAUK) over Telegraph articles on access to general practice.

Media coverage (Photo: Jill Ferry Photography)
Media coverage (Photo: Jill Ferry Photography)

In a letter to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), DAUK chair Dr Jenny Vaughan said negative coverage risked ‘eroding public trust’ in primary care services and that this could represent a serious ‘patient safety issue’.

More than 2,500 people have signed an online petition in support of the complaint, which questions the accuracy and potential impact of two articles in the Telegraph.

One of the articles was headlined 'GPs are improving their work-life balance while worsening the life-death balance of everyone else', and the other 'Time to turn the heat up on GPs who won’t see us face-to-face'.

GP access

The articles have also drawn criticism from the RCGP and the BMA, with college chair Professor Martin Marshall last week speaking out to defend GPs' response during the pandemic and warning that growing levels of criticism and abuse were undermining doctors’ mental health.

Tne DAUK complaint letter, which asks for a formal response and an apology, says: ‘GPs are doing their best to help patients within a broken system during unprecedented times. We are extremely disappointed by the lack of central and governmental support, and we agree that our patients deserve more from our NHS.'

The letter points out that '83% of our patients report a “good GP experience” during the pandemic' and that GPs want this to be even higher - but warns that 'attacks' on the profession in the media 'make it hard for us to succeed'.

The DAUK letter warns that suggesting GPs are refusing to see patients face-to-face could stop patients seeking help for serious symptoms, or mean they present to emergency departments.

Patient safety

A DAUK spokesperson said: ‘The narrative that general practice has been closed throughout the pandemic has filtered down to patients. This needs to be called out.’

Last month, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey responded to Telegraph coverage of GP access, warning: ‘Many of the family doctors I represent are at the end of their tether, and such constant undermining and chastising will push them further towards the door, leaving us with even fewer GPs and making it even more difficult for patients to get the treatment they need.’

A recent survey by the MDU revealed that four in five GPs say abuse from patients has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, with delayed treatment and high demand for appointments fuelling frustration.

The Telegraph was approached for comment.

Click here to read the DAUK letter

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