BMA demands UK government backing for GPs after joint statement in Scotland

Doctors' leaders are demanding stronger backing for general practice from the UK government after Scotland's health secretary issued a joint statement with the BMA condemning abuse of GPs and criticism over face-to-face access.

BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)

In a letter published on 5 October, Scottish health and social care secretary Hamza Yousaf and BMA Scotland chair Dr Andrew Buist jointly praised general practice for 'working flat out for a prolonged and challenging period' through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter said the government and GP leaders understood 'what is and what is not possible at this time', adding: 'Any suggestion that GPs have not been seeing patients face-to-face because they do not want to is false and dangerous.

'We absolutely reject this and condemn the increasing abuse that has been directed towards general practice staff at what already is a difficult time for all health and social care workers. This is completely unacceptable.'

The letter is in sharp contrast to recent statements from health and social care secretary Sajid Javid in parliament, in which he said it was 'high time' for GPs to offer face-to-face appointments for anyone who wants one.

Backing general practice

BMA chair Dr Nagpaul called for the UK government to follow the example set by the Scottish government, with a similar statement backing general practice.

The call comes as the BMA announced that following recent meetings with the government it is expecting 'firm proposals for a package of support for general practice focused on quickly tackling abuse/aggression, low morale and an unmanageable workload' in the coming days.

The BMA is currently polling GPs over forms of action they would be prepared to take if the government fails to come up with a satisfactory response to the rising tide of abuse and to address soaring workload in general practice.

GPonline reported this week that GPs in England are dealing with millions more patient contacts because the proportion of patients who do not attend (DNA) for GP appointments has halved compared with before the pandemic.

The huge drop in DNAs has contributed to doctors working long hours at a time when clinical administrative workload has risen by a third compared with pre-pandemic times.

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