BMA leaders have condemned an 'unacceptable' media briefing from NHS England over the letter - warning it triggered an 'attack' on general practice - and has demanded an apology and action to 'correct damage done'.
The BMA has now written to NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, warning that reports triggered by the NHS England briefing were 'yet another major hammer blow' to morale in general practice - and gave the impression that NHS officials had 'intentionally sought to create negative media coverage of primary care services'.
The BMA was now hearing 'large numbers of reports from practices receiving complaints and many staff members being verbally abused', it said - demanding NHS England take action to correct 'unsupported and ill-informed media articles'.
The BMA said earlier this week that the NHS England letter to practices was 'an affront' to practices working hard to deliver care in the COVID-19 pandemic - and NHS medical director Dr Nikki Kanani has apologised for 'any hurt' caused.
But the BMA appears determined to force a further apology - warning it cannot imagine any other sector of the NHS being treated in this way, and insisting such an approach must never be repeated.
The letter from BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey to Mr Stevens says: 'I write to raise serious concerns and insist on an apology for the unacceptable media briefing by NHS England and NHS Improvement regarding the recent letter sent out to all GPs in England regarding face-to-face appointments.
'GPs and their teams have gone above and beyond to support patients throughout the pandemic and continue to support them as we face dramatically increased referral times and backlogs across NHS services due to the impact of COVID-19.
'Practices will always see their patients face-to-face when it is clinically appropriate to do so - and as you will know this dedication to patient care has meant the tragic loss of some of our valued colleagues after they contracted COVID-19 following face-to-face consultations.'
Dr Vautrey warns that practices are heading into 'probably the most challenging autumn and winter that any of us will have faced'. He writes: 'Instead of attacking GPs and their teams, NHS England must not only apologise to the profession and correct damage that has been done, but also demontrate you have taken the necessary action to ensure incidents such as this never happen again.'