Government thanks GPs for 'unprecedented' COVID-19 response as lockdown begins

A government health minister has written to GPs and practice staff to express 'sincere thanks' for the profession's pandemic response and backing the profession to 'rise to the challenge' of a tough winter.

Health minister Jo Churchill (Photo: UK parliament/Creative Commons)
Health minister Jo Churchill (Photo: UK parliament/Creative Commons)

In a letter to GPs and practice staff on 5 November, health minister Jo Churchill said the government had been 'struck by the unprecedented pace at which general practice has adapted in response to COVID-19'.

Ms Churchill, the undersecretary of state for prevention, public health and primary care, acknowledged soaring workload in primary care, writing: 'For many of you, workload is as high, if not higher, than at this point last year and now all being delivered in a COVID-tinged world.'

Following widespread anger in general practice over claims that the profession had denied patients face-to-face appointments during the pandemic - despite evidence that more than 2m in-person appointments per week are taking place - the letter says the government will 'rely on and trust general practice to prioritise clinical needs'.

Face-to-face appointments

It adds: 'GPs are uniquely placed to give patients confidence that they can receive safe, effective care remotely, and that they can get face-to-face appointments when needed.

'Demonstrating that, although the delivery mechanism may have changed, their care remains at the heart of everything you do. We rely on and trust general practice to prioritise clinical needs to help us achieve this. It won’t be easy, but we know that you and your colleagues will rise to the challenge.'

The letter, which came as England began a four-week lockdown, says the NHS faces a 'very tough winter' as it balances care for patients with COVID-19 or other health needs.

Read the letter in full:

Dear GPs and general practice staff

I write to express our sincere thanks for the work of general practice throughout the pandemic. The exceptional circumstances we are facing as a country underline the critical role you play in our lives.

We have been struck by the unprecedented pace at which general practice has adapted in response to COVID-19. Transforming the way primary care services operate. Introducing total triage, delivering remote consultations alongside face-to-face appointments in order to serve as many patients as possible, while protecting staff and the public from risk of infection.

You and your colleagues have worked hard to identify and offer proactive care to shielded and high-risk patients, to provide much-needed primary care services to care home residents, and more recently to support the delivery of an expanded flu programme. For many of you, workload is as high, if not higher, than at this point last year and now all being delivered in a COVID-tinged world. We remain hugely grateful for the efforts GPs and all practice staff continue to make to support all of us when we need you.

It goes without saying that we face a very tough winter. COVID-19 infections are rising again as we all move into a period of further nationwide restrictions this week. It will be even more important than ever that the NHS works together to ensure all patients can access the services they need as safely as possible – whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or other health needs. As GPs, you are uniquely placed to give patients confidence that they can receive safe, effective care remotely, and that they can get face-to-face appointments when needed. Demonstrating that, although the delivery mechanism may have changed, their care remains at the heart of everything you do. We rely on and trust general practice to prioritise clinical needs to help us achieve this. It won’t be easy, but we know that you and your colleagues will rise to the challenge.

Finally, we would also like to ensure you take care of yourselves and your families in what will undoubtedly be some difficult days ahead.

Kind regards,

Jo Churchill

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care

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