Javid must offer 'clear public backing for GPs', warns BMA

The BMA has demanded 'clear public backing' for general practice from the government - along with investment, steps to protect staff from abuse and attacks and measures to address workload.

Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: JH Lancy)

BMA GP leaders met health and social care secretary Sajid Javid for the first time this week, spelling out concerns over  the impact of 'increasing abuse against hardworking and dedicated GPs'.

The BMA's GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey set out a list of demands for increased government support for the profession following sustained attacks in the media over face-to-face access and a wave of abuse and attacks against GPs and practice staff.

The Leeds GP urged the government to:

  • Provide clear public backing for GPs, recognising the huge pressure they are under.
  • Invest urgently in primary care and remove unnecessary bureaucracy.
  • Support increased sentencing for those who assault healthcare and emergency workers.
  • Commit to working with the BMA on a national campaign to stop the abuse of NHS staff.

Attacks on GPs

Calls for increased sentences for attacks on NHS staff come after a man in Manchester was charged after an attack reported to have left one GP with a fractured skull.

Commenting on the meeting, Dr Vautrey said: 'This emergency meeting with the secretary of state allowed us to make it crystal clear how unacceptable the increasing abuse against hardworking and dedicated GPs and the general practice workforce is, fuelled by a damaging and demoralising misinformation campaign in some parts of the media, as well as comments from politicians.

'We highlighted the serious damage to morale that the current anti-GP rhetoric is having on the whole workforce and how this is leading to verbal abuse on a daily basis and serious incidents of physical attack.

'We made it very clear that the government has to, unequivocally, explain to the public why healthcare workers are still working within the constraints of infection, protection and control measures. We also said it should be a priority that the government has to explain to the public that more patients than pre-pandemic have been able to access their GPs, whether that’s via the phone, online consultations or in person.

GP workload

'The secretary of state must confront the reality of unsustainable workload pressures, poor premises, the impact of the care backlog and secondary care work transfer to general practice and we urged him to trust practices to deliver services to patients without the rigidity, bureaucracy and burden of QOF or unnecessary CQC inspections.

'We also called for far more action to enable practices to expand their workforce and for the government to deliver on its commitment of 6,000 more GPs. Words are not enough, we now need urgent action.'

RCGP leaders also met with Mr Javid this week, after college chair Professor Martin Marshall warned in evidence to the House of Commons health select committee that demands for face-to-face appointments for all patients who want them were unachievable.

His comments came after Mr Javid said in parliament last week that it was 'high time' GPs offered in-person access to any patient who wanted a face-to-face appointment, sparking a furious response from the profession's leaders, who labelled him out of touch with reality.

Official data show that GP practices delivered more than 15m face-to-face appointments in June this year - along with more than 10m phone appointments and millions more in-person COVID-19 jab visits. Overall, the figures show general practice in England delivered 31% more appointments in June this year than in June 2019.

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'We’re hugely grateful to GP practices for their hard work and dedication to bring appointment numbers back to pre-pandemic levels, with over 330m delivered in the last year.

'Violence and abuse towards NHS staff is appalling - we are taking action to protect staff through the NHS Violence Reduction Programme and the NHS works closely with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to bring offenders to justice.

'We are investing £270m to expand GP capacity, on top of providing £1.5bn to the sector until 2023/24 to deliver world-class care to patients.'

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