BMA letter to Daily Telegraph in response to article on GP appointments

by BMA media team

Letter from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 26 August 2021

The BMA sent the below letter to the Daily Telegraph for publication, in response to a column by Allison Pearson titled 'GPs are improving their work-life balance while worsening the life-death balance of everyone else':

Sir,

It was with despair and anger that I read the column in yesterday’s Telegraph. To suggest that family doctors have seen their work-life balance improve during the pandemic and attempt to justify the abuse directed at them and their colleagues serves no good purpose.

Since March 2020, there have been nearly 370 million patient appointments in England – 200 million of which were in-person – at the same time as GPs and their teams moving heaven and earth to lead the Covid vaccination campaign. Meanwhile, the number of patients per practice is 22% higher than it was six years ago, leading GPs to report working an average of 11-hour days. These are not figures that show a better work-life balance for the family doctor.

The article also talks of ‘unnecessary’ Covid measures. There is nothing unnecessary about practical steps such as physical distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene which keep patients and staff safe. Indeed a recent BMA survey of the public found that a majority support these steps. We know that remote appointments are not perfect with everyone, and GPs themselves have their own frustrations with current processes. But the same BMA survey found that most people recognise that problems with access were the fault of Government, commissioners, and NHS management.

So, to keep blaming individual GPs and their colleagues for this – and using it to defend abuse – is completely unfair and ignores the lack of staff, premises space and under-resourcing across the system.

Many of the family doctors I represent are at the end of their tether, and such constant undermining and chastising will push them further towards the door, leaving us with even fewer GPs and making it even more difficult for patients to get the treatment they need.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair

Leeds, West Yorkshire

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. An edited version of the letter appeared in the Telegraph and on its website.