Public says more GPs are needed to improve services, as BMA launches ‘Support Your Surgery’ campaign

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Last reviewed: 24 August 2021

Almost half of the public in England say if they could make one improvement to their GP practice, it would be to increase the number of doctors, according to a survey commissioned by the BMA1.

These findings underpin a campaign launched by the BMA today – ‘Support Your Surgery’ - encouraging members of the public to support the Association’s call for Government investment in general practice to provide better services.

As part of the campaign, a petition has been set up by the BMA for the public to sign, which calls on the Westminster Government to also fund improved buildings and source more GPs. The campaign also explains the pressures on general practice, and why it’s been difficult for patients to see their GP face-to-face over the last 18 months.

Demand on general practice and its workforce increased hugely during the pandemic, as practices kept patients safe by introducing infection control measures which has limited the number of people GPs and their staff could see face-to-face.

Although 58% of the public surveyed support these measures2, GPs know this has been frustrating – in fact, a recent BMA survey found that one in five GPs reported being threatened, and another 67% said their experience of abuse, threatening behaviour or violence had got worse in the last year.

60% of those surveyed felt that the Government, local commissioning groups and NHS management were largely responsible for the backlog of care and lack of access to a GP, with just a quarter feeling that GPs and other healthcare staff in surgeries were to blame.3

Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee chair at the BMA, said: “This campaign is about being upfront and honest with our patients. We know that Covid-19 has changed how GP services look and feel, and that it can be incredibly frustrating for patients who just want to see their doctor, face-to-face, without delay.

“We, like the rest of the NHS, were ill-prepared for the pandemic - with decades of underfunding and seriously short on staff, and the consequences of the last 18 months have added significantly to these pressures. They have also been understandably very stressful for patients and, sadly, this has resulted in poor behaviours, or worse, with some staff reporting cases of abuse and violence from patients.

“This isn’t the way we want it to be. GPs and their teams are just as frustrated, and while the general practice workforce have done everything in their power to improve pressures in their own surgeries, we can’t make the changes we and our patients want to see without urgent Government backing and funding.

“It’s important that patients understand the reality of this crisis and that, despite the easing of lockdown, the pressures on general practice will only get worse if nothing is done. Not only is Covid-19 still a threat, but GPs also continue to deliver the vaccine rollout; annual winter pressures and the flu season could make things worse; and the backlog of care is constantly growing.

“General practice is at a crossroads and the route for general practice to get through this crisis isn’t guaranteed at the moment. All doctors want to do is help their patients, but we need the right funding and resources to do that, and to the standard that our communities understandably expect.

“We hope this campaign, with GPs and patients working together, is the beginning of not only giving general practice what it needs, but also what our patients rightfully deserve. We therefore urge everyone to sign our petition calling on Government to provide the funding we need for better services and more doctors. If you support your surgery, it means it can be there to support you.”


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. BritainThinks surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,732 adults in England online between 6 and 8 August 2021.

If you could make one improvement to your registered NHS GP surgery, what would it be? If there is more than one improvement you would like to see, please pick the one that is most important to you personally. 

Increase in the number of doctors: 44%

Increase in the number of available phone lines: 14%

Increase in the number of healthcare staff (other than doctors): 10%

Increase in the number of practice nurses: 7%

Improved facilities: 3%

Increase in the number of admin or clerical staff: 3%

Extension to the existing practice buildings: 2%

Other: 5%

I would not make any improvement: 13%

  1. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that NHS settings including GP surgeries have had to make changes to how they work, including reducing the number of people in waiting rooms, limiting the amount of face-to-face appointments they provide, and maintaining mask wearing in NHS buildings. These changes have been in line with guidelines set by Government to limit the spread of the virus and protect patients, GPs and other NHS staff. On a scale of 0-10 (with 0 being strongly oppose and 10 being strongly support), how far do you support or oppose these measures: 

7-10: 58%

4-6: 28%

0-3: 14%

  1. There is currently a significant backlog of routine appointments in of routine face-to-face appointments, in general practice. By routine appointments, we mean an appointment that is booked in advance. Who do you believe is responsible for addressing this backlog in general practice? If you feel there is more than one group who is responsible, please pick the group who you think has the greatest share of responsibility. 

Government: 27%

GPs and other healthcare staff working in GP surgeries: 26%

The people who are responsible for the management of the NHS as a whole: 19%

Local commissioning groups: 14%

Other: 1%

Don’t know: 14%