While hardworking GP surgery staff have worked tirelessly to keep services running for their patients, there appears to have been a coordinated effort to denigrate general practice and to shift blame for various political failures during the pandemic.
To be clear:
- GP surgeries have been open throughout the pandemic. They were instructed by NHS England to shift to an online triage system to reduce the risk of infection to patients and medical staff alike.
- NHS England has continued to insist that a proportion of appointments be delivered to patients remotely.
- The number of standard appointments in general practice has noticeably risen inexorably over the past 18 months.
- Last month alone (Oct 2021), appointments delivered rose by 4.7 million to 28.6 million. That’s the equivalent of 43% of the entire population of the UK consulting in just one month!
GPs were not furloughed and many GPs have cancelled annual leave, worked evenings and weekends, over and above their usual hours, just to maintain services for their patients and deliver the bulk of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
GPs and practice staff have endured physical and verbal abuse from patients who have been fed the narrative that GPs have been lazy and hiding behind closed doors for the pandemic. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For many, the media onslaught and negative government briefings have been too much:
We delivered, at short notice, 75 per cent of a mass new vaccination programme. We dealt with the backlogs resulting from cancelled secondary care work. Data from NHS Digital confirms, contrary to the reports of being closed, general practice was and is busier than ever before. Despite this, we are being shouted at by patients frustrated with delays, and being vilified by large sections of the press. This all takes its toll and GP suicide rates are now four times the national average.
I didn’t go into medicine to defend myself against untruths that general practice has been closed for 18 months (we really haven’t). I’m trying my best and working my hardest to advocate for patients in a chronically underfunded system. If I was able to simply do my job and focus on practising medicine, I could do it. But we are bombarded with so much more than clinical care on a daily basis. Then after a 13-hour day, returning home to see social media comments about GPs refusing to see patients when you’ve just seen, spoken to, or messaged 80 in that one day alone.Rosie Shire, Independent 3rd September 2021