GP Response RE: Press Agitation For Face To Face Appointments For All

In the last few days, primary care has been absolutely slated by NHSE, the press, social media and one particular semi-retired surgical oncology consultant who should know better. The response from the various Local Medical Committees has been heartening – but is unlikely to get nearly the same publicity.

For the record, face to face appointments were never stopped and have been continuing throughout the pandemic for those with a clinical need. A return to total face to face appointments when the pandemic is still continuing is risky at best and unnecessary in the vast majority of cases.

Total patient contacts are between 30-50% higher than pre-pandemic – and this is not just locally but nationally. A change to some remote consulting, increased telephone consultations and on-line consultations has facilitated the increased workload but this is not sustainable moving forwards.

We have also delivered in the last 12 months our largest ever flu campaign – from pop up gazebos in the pouring down rain and mainly at weekends or outside of normal working hours. This involved a lot of staff giving extra hours on top of their working week – which they did gladly to protect our patients.

From the middle of December, all local practices have joined to work together to deliver the COVID-19 vaccination programme from the Totally Wicked stadium and this last week achieved an astonishing 100,000 vaccinations. All over 50’s and at risk under 50’s have been vaccinated. All nursing home and housebound patients have been fully vaccinated, in addition to the NHS workforce. A start has been made to vaccinate the younger cohorts. The service has run 12 hours per day, seven days a week. We have had to provide the staff to run this service in addition to trying to keep the ‘day job’ going. This has put great pressure on those staff both manning the stadium and those remaining in the practice.

General Practice was under enormous strain pre pandemic and the introduction of ‘telephone first’ ensured those patients most in need were able to be seen as rapidly and efficiently as possible. On average, telephone and e-consultations save us very little time, if any. It is not an enjoyable way to work as it can be very segmented. It is however necessary for the foreseeable future as it is both safer and facilitates access for those in greatest medical need.

An immediate return to all F2F consultations would instantly create a several week waiting list for routine care for the majority of patients. The Daily Telegraph’s claim of ‘victory’ over general practice is as offensive as it is demoralising.

Please continue to consider carefully how you can access help and advice on-line, via the website and the local pharmacies. Please remember we have no influence over the hospital appointment system and we are not dentists.

Heartfelt thanks go to the vast majority of our patients for their continued kindness, support, patience and understanding. The new way of working was forced upon us overnight and your support matters greatly to the practice. We remain totally committed to providing the highest quality service possible under very difficult circumstances.

Regarding a certain surgical oncology consultant of 32 years standing giving forth his opinion of general practice to anyone who will listen, I only have almost 30 years as a GP partner, have no knowledge of surgical oncology practice and will therefore stop here.