In her inaugural speech as GPC England chair, Farah Jameel (pictured above) said the landscape as a ‘defining moment for general practice’, with family doctors left ‘demoralised, broken and exhausted’ by the lack of recognition and tide of rising abuse despite their immense efforts during the pandemic, a hugely successful vaccination campaign and rocketing pressures on services.
Dr Jameel, who was addressing the annual conference of England local medical committee representatives, being held virtually, said: ‘When this country and the world faced the biggest public health crisis of a generation, against all odds, we dug deep, we rose to the challenge, we stood up to be counted.’
However, pointing to the significant workforce shortages, a record backlog in care and winter pressures presenting possibly the biggest challenge yet for GPs and their colleagues across the health service, she said: ‘It has become too much for many of us. I, like many, have had to reduce my sessions. I, like many, have faced abuse from patients and been left scared and disheartened.
'I, like many, have become overwhelmed with the complexity of need and isolation I see in my community. Every step of the way our desire to help, our energy to serve is hampered by the system we work in and dampened by the restraints of a lack of resources that we so desperately need to care for our communities.’
Let down patients
Dr Jameel added: ‘Patients are angry, they feel let down. Healthcare professionals are exhausted, they feel unheard and let down, and universal healthcare is on its knees. Abuse, aggression, and everyday acts of incivility are rising exponentially. Right here, right now is a defining moment for general practice in England.’
Dr Jameel also discussed the results of the indicative ballot of GP practices in England, launched by the BMA after the profession rejected the Government’s so-called winter ‘rescue package’ for general practice, which asked them what action they might be willing to take.
A majority of respondents suggested support for four of the five actions.
‘The results showed GPs and practice staff are frustrated, struggling and are desperate to see change,’ she said.
‘General practice is ready to break, and mark my words, without us the NHS will fail and the principles we all hold dear, the values of fairness and equality which make the NHS so revered and so admired, will all be lost.’
Rebuild and reset
Addressing doctors, health leaders and the Government, Dr Jameel said: ‘My election as the new leader of GPC England represents an opportunity for a reset. It is, naturally, a fresh start for the committee but it also needs to be a fresh start for the profession.
‘There is so much work to do immediately and longer term. We need to rebuild our workforce and firmly place wellbeing at the heart of our priorities. We need to give GPs time to see the patients who need them the most, time to lead their teams, time to keep up to date with the revolution in healthcare, and time to look after themselves.
'We need to learn the lessons of the pandemic and work with patients and partner organisations to develop the models of consultation for the future based on a blend of traditional and cutting-edge technology.
‘Today, I offer the Government and the media the opportunity to participate in this fresh start – to step back from the rhetoric of division, to reflect on the dedication that general practice has shown in the most difficult of circumstances and to demonstrate a willingness to work together to create solutions to this crisis. Let’s work together, let’s “build general practice back better”.’
Dr Jameel’s election as the new chair of GPC England came after Leeds GP Richard Vautrey stepped down as chair earlier this month. He had held the role for four years and had been part of the GPC negotiating/executive team since 2004