BMA demands emergency meeting with government over GP abuse

BMA leaders have requested an emergency summit with the government to discuss ‘unacceptable levels of abuse’ faced by GPs and their staff amid ‘sustained anti-GP campaigns’ in the media.

BMA warning over GP abuse (Photo: JH Lancy)
BMA warning over GP abuse (Photo: JH Lancy)

In a letter to the health secretary today, BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul called for stronger legal measures to protect healthcare workers against abuse from patients, asking for tougher punishments for both physical and verbal attacks.

Requests for greater safeguards for NHS staff come as four members of a GP practice in Manchester were violently attacked last week, leaving one GP with a fractured skull.

The union has called on the government to condemn the ‘onslaught of abuse and media scapegoating of GPs and their staff’, following a letter sent by GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey yesterday condemning a Daily Mail campaign calling for more face-to-face appointments.

GP abuse

BMA GPC leaders have also requested a separate meeting with the government to discuss its concerns about an ‘unprecedented rise’ in workload and to explore what support can be offered to GP practices as they enter a busy autumn-winter period.

In the letter, Dr Nagpaul said the BMA was ‘deeply shocked’ by the attack at a GP practice in Openshaw, Manchester, last week - and outlined a list of measures the government should employ to offer greater protection, including:

  • increasing the maximum sentence for assault against emergency workers from 12 months’ to two years’ imprisonment;
  • verbal abuse against emergency workers to carry a ‘heavier punishment’;
  • a ‘comprehensive national violence reduction strategy’ to educate the public and support NHS staff.

Highlighting abuse experienced by GP teams, Dr Nagpaul wrote: ‘The narrative that practices are not offering face-to-face appointments is as dangerous as it is inaccurate. The reality, as you must know, is that with the constraints of the size of GP practice premises, there are limits on how many people can safely be present in a waiting room while adhering to appropriate infection control measures.

Practice workloads

‘While it may suit some sections of the media to portray appointments as being reduced, the fact is that GPs are seeing more patients than ever, working longer hours than ever... It is soul destroying for GPs and their staff to hear the narrative that they are “closed”.’

Dr Nagpaul emphasised the ‘immense efforts’ of GP teams in leading the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, and the booster programme will be for general practice this winter, on top of the annual flu campaign. The GPC has requested a separate 'urgent meeting' to address workload concerns.

He added: ‘Rather than endorsing a media narrative which scapegoats GPs, show them your support for their dedication. Without this support more and more GPs will leave the service, making the manifesto pledge of 6,000 additional GPs inadequate, even if were achievable.

‘It is too late for the staff in this specific practice in Openshaw, but I call on you now to speak openly and unequivocally in support of general practice, to meet with our GP committee chair, and to attend an emergency summit to address the situation before it gets much worse. I look forward to hearing from you so that we can begin to work together on addressing the huge challenges ahead with honesty, integrity and compassion for all.’

A recent BMA survey found that half of the GPs had personally experienced verbal abuse, with two-thirds saying they had witnessed abuse directed at staff. Another two-thirds said that their experience of abuse had become worse over the last year.

GP leaders in Cornwall warned that surgeries are 'on the brink of a crisis' and may not cope this winter if there is a surge of flu and other respiratory illnesses alongside a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Social distancing should be cut to 1m in practices, says new IPC guidance

Social distancing should be cut to 1m in practices, says new IPC guidance

Practices can reduce social distancing from 2m to 1m providing the continued use...

Working as a full-time GP in clinical practice is becoming unsafe, RCGP chair warns

Working as a full-time GP in clinical practice is becoming unsafe, RCGP chair warns

The government needs to understand that general practice is a 'safety critical occupation'...

Face-to-face care debate 'too polarised', says NHS England's top GP

Face-to-face care debate 'too polarised', says NHS England's top GP

The face-to-face care debate has become 'too polarised', NHS England's top GP has...

GPs can apply learning from COVID-19 pandemic to fight climate emergency

GPs can apply learning from COVID-19 pandemic to fight climate emergency

GPs can apply learning from the COVID-19 response to help fight the climate emergency...

GP who lost her job to long COVID urges doctors not to underestimate the condition

GP who lost her job to long COVID urges doctors not to underestimate the condition

A GP with long COVID has urged other doctors to listen to patients who have the illness...

GPs must demand strong voice in COVID-19 public inquiry

GPs must demand strong voice in COVID-19 public inquiry

General practice must ensure its voice is heard as national inquiries into the initial...