Abuse of primary care staff 'directly affecting patient care and safety', LMCs will argue

Abuse of primary care staff is directly affecting patient care and safety, LMCs will argue this month - as the profession's leaders warned of the 'deep hurt and damage' inflicted on GPs during the pandemic.

LMC conference - this year's event will be online (Photo: JH Lancy)

In a debate on wellbeing scheduled for this year's England LMCs conference on 25 November, GP leaders will debate statements arguing that patient care and safety is being directly undermined by abuse of primary care staff.

Four in five GPs say abuse from patients has worsened during the pandemic - a problem that has been linked to intense criticism of access to face-to-face care in general practice by politicians and sections of the media.

GP leaders will also warn that 'when government and NHS England choose not to support NHS staff, they directly affect patient safety and knowingly put lives at risk'.

GP access

The conference will also debate a call for healthcare policy to be decided 'based on high quality evidence on population health, and not the whims of a handful of vitriolic media'.

Parts of the media have accused general practice of being 'closed' or refusing to see patients in person despite more than half of appointments being delivered face-to-face through the pandemic, in addition to millions more as part of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid sparked a furious reponse from GPs in September after telling MPs it was 'high time' GPs offered in-person appointments to anyone who wanted one.

Meanwhile, the BMA's GP committee backed a vote of no confidence in NHS England earlier this year over a failure to support GPs - saying a letter demanding all patients should be offered face-to-face appointments was the 'final straw'.

Deep hurt

The LMC agenda committee noted in the conference agenda document that it had been 'overwhelmed both by the number of motions submitted, and the deep hurt and damage to the profession that they articulated'.

A statement from the committee included in the agenda says: 'We all know friends and colleagues who have not survived the pandemic - either sacrificing their lives, their mental health or their career. The term "wellbeing" cannot possibly encompass all the challenges that those who work in general practice have to face. But it is a place to start.

'This themed debate seeks to provide a platform and a voice for those working and representing general practice.'

Doctors contributing to the debate have been encouraged to describe how it feels to be a GP working in the current environment, messages they want patients to hear, how abuse from patients feels for primary care staff on the receiving end and the impact it has had.

The access plan and support package for general practice published last month by NHS England and the government promised a 'zero tolerance' approach over abuse against NHS staff.

However, the package overall provoked a furious response from general practice - with the BMA currently conducting an indicative ballot to gauge the profession's willingness to take forms of industrial action over its failure to offer the support general practice needs.

Doctors at the LMCs conference will also debate issues including the transfer of hospital workload into primary care, plans for hospital consultants to work in primary care, contract reform and integrated care.

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