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GPs condemn ‘lack of support’ from government amid tide of abuse and misinformation

By 10/09/2021No Comments

A letter to health and social care secretary Sajid Javid signed jointly by the BMA, the RCGP, the NHS Confederation’s PCN and GP federation networks, and the Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) highlights the wave of abuse faced by practices working under intense pressure.

It reminds the health and social care secretary of the sacrifices practice teams have made to maintain services throughout the pandemic – and warns that a failure to publicly support a service with many of its teams ‘at breaking point’ risks causing irreparable damage.

The letter demands a meeting with the health and social care secretary, and says practices have received ‘no support’ to cope with the unprecedented additional pressure heaped on general practice by the NHS backlog during the pandemic or further problems created by the blood tube shortage.

GPs facing abuse

The letter highlights polling by the BMA showing abuse against GPs has worsened during the pandemic, and an IGPM survey that found three quarters of GP staff faced daily abuse including threats, racism and sexism.

The letter warns that the government must step up to support staff in the face of unacceptable abuse and to defend it against ‘misinformation and abuse promoted by the media’.

It says: ‘Staff deserve the overt and public support of government to carry on doing what they do best – delivering much needed high quality care to patients. Currently, they are being repeatedly attacked, insulted and scapegoated across the media.

‘This situation has been further impacted by the national blood tube shortage resulting in GPs facing criticism for postponing blood tests, even though the situation is beyond their control and under national guidance.

Media attacks

‘This situation is not acceptable. We call on you to publicly support and defend dedicated GPs and primary care staff against this onslaught of misinformation and abuse promoted by the media. It is essential that patient care is protected by looking after the hardworking primary care teams who provide care.

‘We believe that there must be accurate, timely and regular communications from the government to the public, which reflect the realities of the situation and what is being done to address the challenges facing the NHS, and particularly relating to general practice.

‘As organisations representing general practice and primary care, we write to express our grave concern with the lack of central support, or public challenge by government, of increasing instances of abuse being directed towards those working in general practice and the misinformation on how they are delivering their services for patients.’

The organisations highlight polling by the RCGP that found 3,500 GPs could be lost to the profession over the next year and up to 16,000 in the next five as doctors consider their future in the health service amid extreme pressure.

GP workforce

The letter warns: ‘Without action, this crisis does not look set to change, the same survey found six in 10 GPs expecting the situation to worsen over the next year and the same proportion reporting a decline in their mental health and wellbeing over the past year. This trend needs to be broken.’

It warns too that goals for PCNs around improving population health and tackling health inequality will not be delivered ‘if the fundamental building blocks of general practice are not effectively supported’.

The organisations wrote: ‘Primary care staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. They have been proud to support their patients during the greatest challenge in a generation, administering the majority of vaccinations, reaching out to underserved communities and making headway against their objective to tackle health inequalities, remaining open and delivering record numbers of consultations, the majority face-to-face.

‘Given this dedication and the sacrifices made to keep practices and broader primary care services running, by adapting quickly to new ways of working, staff deserve the overt and public support of government.’

The DHSC has been approached for comment.

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