The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has told the BMA that he recognises the immense pressures general practice is currently facing.
The Association called for an urgent meeting with Matt Hancock after the BMA’s England GP committee passed a motion of no confidence in the leadership of NHS England last week, following its letter instructing GPs to now offer face-to-face appointments despite many already doing so throughout the pandemic.
Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC chair at the BMA - joined by council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, and Dr Ben Molyneux, chair of the sessional GP committee this morning – told Mr Hancock and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care, Jo Churchill, about the unsustainable workload pressures currently facing general practice, and the urgent need to support surgeries if they are to safely increase the number of face-to-face appointments while trying to care for those patients who are now part of a huge backlog, caused by the pandemic.
Reiterating a letter sent to Mr Hancock last week, the BMA made plain at today’s meeting that GPs and their teams are feeling increasingly demoralised by the suggestion that they are failing their patients by following national guidance around triage and remote consulting, despite doctors working tirelessly to keep up with patient demand on top of delivering the vaccine rollout.
Dr Richard Vautrey said: “We are very pleased that Matt Hancock and Jo Churchill recognised the importance of meeting with us and the extreme pressures currently facing general practice.
“The BMA believes that GPs should feel empowered to deliver care in what they believe is the best way for their patients, and retain flexibility of access – be it in-person or remotely - rather than submitting to arbitrary targets of face-to-face appointments that may not meet the diverse needs of patients, increase workload and waiting times, and ultimately diminish the quality of care we can provide.
“The emergency legislation, which led to the top-down directives currently governing general practice, must be removed, and steps taken to help us work smarter, not harder, in what is already an extremely pressurised environment. This means creating a defined recovery phase for primary care, as well as an investment package to give practices the confidence they need going forward, rather than getting bogged down in being micromanaged by NHS England and scrutinised over the number of in-person appointments.
“It’s hugely encouraging that Government is listening and taking this issue as seriously as we are – even going on to refer to our meeting in the House of Commons today - but it’s clear that this must now go beyond words and turn into action. We have fulfilled our promise to members that we would speak to the Government as soon as possible to rectify this situation, and now look forward to doing so.”
Dr Ben Molyneux, sessional GP committee chair, added: “GP surgeries and GP urgent care services have continued to provide face-to-face appointments during what has been an extremely challenging time, but the profession is tired of command and control instructions that don’t take into account the reality of what it is to be a GP during a global pandemic.
“Seeing patients face-to-face is what general practice is all about, but we need meaningful support to reduce the current workload pressures facing GPs and their teams. Most importantly, we need the acceptance that GPs know their patients best and that our communities ultimately benefit from flexible access, be that face-to-face or via alternative means preferable to the patient.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association 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.