Viewpoint: Open letter to NHS England on face-to-face GP consultations

In an open letter, north London GP Dr Shahnaz Camatchee responds to NHS England's recent warning to the profession over providing face-to-face appointments.

North London GP Dr Shahnaz Camatchee
North London GP Dr Shahnaz Camatchee

Dear NHS England

It is extremely hurtful, insulting and demoralising, when I read about your suggestion that GPs are not doing enough to provide face-to-face consultations in the middle of this global pandemic.

My colleagues and I have been working tirelessly providing the best of care we can all give during these very difficult times. We are consulting now with the maximum number of patients - on an average day up to 40-plus patients per clinician, including face-to-face when deemed absolutely and clinically necessary.

I fall into the high-risk 'BAME' group along with a lot of my other colleagues. When I have been asked by patients if we are conducting face-to-face appointments, my reply has been that we do so only if it's absolutely necessary clinically to bring them down to the surgery.

Keeping doctors safe

Since the lockdown I have seen many children and adults in high-risk groups face-to-face. I am a locum GP and I have worked in many surgeries and some premises do not have adequate designated 'clinical rooms' to see patients face-to-face nor adequate PPE to make doctors feel safe.

Despite the difficulties, GPs have continued to deliver clinical services to the best of their abilities and some GP colleagues have sadly passed away from COVID-19.

Your comments undermine our work and the media will only state what you have told them. The government from the beginning of the lockdown made it very clear about how to carry out clinical work.

Even up to now with COVID-19 cases rising exponentially, the government has urged the population to work from home if possible, which does not apply to the majority of GPs - we are still going to work on site and taking huge risks especially when seeing patients face-to-face and coming home worrying: 'Have I brought COVID home to give it to my family?'.

Protecting family

This worry is particularly acute for people who like me have lost a family member to COVID-19. I lost a family member two weeks ago to the virus.

Meanwhile, if GPs are not doing enough work face-to-face, what about secondary care consultants? Many specialists are still conducting telephone consultations too.

During these most difficult times that the world is facing, primary care despite facing enormous government cuts and lack of resources over the last 10 years, could do with much-needed positive and encouraging words from NHS England, rather than derogatory, demoralising comments about providing inadequate patient care and breach of GP contracts, which is far from reality.

Yours sincerely

Dr Shahnaz Camatchee

North London GP

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