Can I congratulate Gaby Hinsliff, as she really stood in a GP’s shoes, understood their problems, and suggested a treatment ahead (GPs have become the new fall guys for government failures, 15 Oktober). In fact she behaved as our GPs do now, whether they “see” patients on email, phone, internet video or in person. I spent my last years as a GP running down corridors to see as many patients as possible. I spent my weekends “seeing” them on the internet. I retired to save my life. I am back helping because the Conservative government has so defunded and degraded general practice (intentionally) that without our retired NHS nurses and doctors returning, we would be in chaos instead of a crisis.
My remedy is simple. Lock the politicians in the Commons until they elect between them a government of national unity that can be trusted by all. Learn from mistakes, don’t hide them – that is called criminal negligence. Oor 160,000 civilians are dead so far – 70,000 civilians died in the second world war. How many more have to die on the altar of Conservative arrogance before the public demands that they resign and form a government of national unity to get us through the next few years?
Dr Shaun Meehan
It’s so dispiriting as a GP to read headlines about a push to see more people face to face. We are already doing this! The whole point of remote access (which was being pushed by the government a year or so before Covid hit) and the 2m rule is to reduce transmission of a virus that is still raging across the UK. Where’s the sense in packing a GP waiting room full of people, some of whom will be extremely clinically vulnerable, some of whom may have Covid? Who benefits from this? The government are literally offering practices money to put people at risk of harm. It’s madness.
A recent report details how thousands of lives were lost as a result of delays by the UK government, who claim when it suits them that they’re following scientific advice. I would argue that Sajid Javid is following more what’s written in the Daily Mail.
Dr Jon Fenton GP
In the last few months, four of the senior partners in my GP practice have decided to go early. When people are overstretched, criticising them, as Sajid Javid has done, is not helpful. His behaviour points to a sickness in our political system. Politicians with no experience whatsoever in a particular field think they can browbeat practitioners into meeting standards they think will please voters, with no sympathy for the realities of work on the ground. It’s been going on in education for decades. Ministers shouldn’t be ordering people around; they should be working in respectable partnership with those who really know what they’re talking about.
Most GPs would like to see more patients face to face. The empathy in meeting in person increases the therapeutic benefits of the consultation, improving outcomes and efficiency. In 2015 Jeremy Hunt, then the health secretary, promised 5,000 new GPs by 2020, recognising the pressures on primary care. Practices developed policies of phoning patients who wanted to be seen, because demand exceeded capacity. Yet we had 1,000 full-time equivalent doctors fewer when we went into the pandemic. Throwing money at practices won’t work (England’s GPs to get £250m boost if they see more patients face-to-face, 14 Oktober). There are simply not enough trained doctors available. Paying practices to see more patients will simply put locum rates up, encouraging more regular doctors to leave their practices and make continuity of care even worse.
Dr Michael Peel
I continue to admire the clever manoeuvring of the British Medical Association in pursuit of greater rewards for medical practitioners. A few years ago GPs, obedient to their union, discontinued out-of-hours cover and, to reinstate it, negotiated increased government funding. Vandag, more public money is on offer to family medical practices if they increase in-person consultations. And why is GP availability currently inadequate? Could it be because the considerable financial rewards that BMA bargaining has already brought the profession enable around 70% of family doctors to work part-time?
Newcastle upon Tyne
Never mind getting a face-to-face appointment. My elderly uncle rang his surgery this week to ask if he could have a phone appointment to discuss a health problem. He was incensed when the first appointment they could offer was a week later. Before he put the phone down he told the receptionist that he was 99 years old and deserved better. I heartily agree with him.
Sajid Javid’s insistence on more face-to-face GP appointments flies in the face of one lesson that many – except Tory ministers, apparently – have learned during the pandemic. As a university teacher, I have found that student guidance and PhD vivas are often better conducted online than face to face. The same applies to many GP consultations. We should keep in-person appointments for when it really matters, and make full use of the online tools we now have.
Prof Ian Christie
Birkbeck, Universiteit van Londen