More GPs needed to reduce stress on services

A BMA campaign has been launched encouraging the public to support calls for greater investment in general practice to increase the number of GPs and improve facilities.

This comes as the Royal College of GPs responds to reports of abuse of GP staff delivering care during the pandemic, and further media claims that practices are denying face-to-face appointments.

The Support Your Surgery campaign has set up a petition for the public to sign, which calls on the Westminster Government to fund improved buildings and source more GPs. The campaign also seeks to improve awareness of 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.

A recent BMA survey reported that almost half of the public in England said if they could make one improvement to their GP practice it would be to increase the number of doctors. The demands on general practice spiraled during the pandemic, with infection control measures limiting the number of people GPs and their staff could see face-to-face. Over half (58 per cent) of the public surveyed support these measures but another recent BMA survey found that one in five GPs reported being threatened, and 67 per cent said their experience of abuse, threatening behaviour or violence had got worse in the last year.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has commented: "It’s entirely unacceptable for anyone working in general practice to be at the receiving end of abuse of any kind, let alone the threat of physical violence. It can have a huge personal impact on the mental health, wellbeing and morale of individual doctors and practice staff at a time when they are busier than ever, providing high-quality care to patients with Covid-19 and conditions unrelated to the virus, in addition to delivering two thirds of all Covid vaccines and preparing for the biggest-ever winter flu vaccination programme."

He adds: "It’s a misconception that GPs aren’t seeing patients face to face. General practice has been open throughout the pandemic and face-to-face appointments have been offered wherever safe and appropriate.

"The real issue is that we have a huge shortage of GPs and our workforce is not big enough to manage the needs of an ageing and growing patient population with increasingly complex needs. This was the case before the pandemic and it has only been further exacerbated by the events of the past year."

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 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."

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