"It's a failure of leadership": Labour shadow minister attacks government in row over return of face-to-face GP appointments

The government must shoulder the responsibility for a row over the future of GP appointments, a Labour Shadow Minister has said.

The guidance states that GPs should offer face-to-face appointments if patients want them except in circumstances where there is a “good clinical reason” to do otherwise, such as if a patient has Covid symptoms.
The guidance states that GPs should offer face-to-face appointments if patients want them except in circumstances where there is a “good clinical reason” to do otherwise, such as if a patient has Covid symptoms.

Last month the British Medical Association (BMA) delivered a damning vote of no confidence in NHS England, after GPs received a letter directing them to resume face-to-face appointments where patients want them.

Many GPs are still running a predominantly digital or phone service for patients, and have said they have not been given the support they need from government to resume in-person services to pre-pandemic levels.

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The guidance states that GPs should offer face-to-face appointments if patients want them except in circumstances where there is a “good clinical reason” to do otherwise, such as if a patient has Covid symptoms.

Leeds-based Dr Richard Vautrey said there was “anger, frustration and disappointment felt by tens of thousands of GPs about the cavalier ways in which they have been treated and badly let down by the Government and NHS England”.

And Labour’s Alex Norris, the Shadow Minister for Primary Care, has decried the row as a “failure of leadership”.

He said: “It’s a failure of leadership that particularly sits with Ministers. This exact same thing happened with dentists at the beginning of January, and government tried to negotiate with them in terms of restoring the operating model.

“What that means is that anxiety and pressures make an opponent out of your workforce, when they should be your partner.

“That failure to engage has ended up in this really awful situation where the leading GPs group is really upset.”

Earlier this week, it was revealed by the NHS that hospital waiting lists had hit above five million for the first time, and that emergency admissions have shot up by more than 70,000 incidents from two years ago.

The BMA warned earlier this week that A&E attendance levels are close to pre-Covid levels.

Hospitals across Yorkshire including York and Scarborough have shared pleas on social media for patients to only attend A&E in an emergency.

Figures showed a monthly rise of a third in people waiting 12 hours for a hospital bed or trolley after admission.

Mr Norris said: “We need to add capacity into the system. We know too many people who don’t need to end up at A&E because they can’t get help anywhere else.”

And the Shadow Minister, the MP for Nottingham North, said a recruitment crisis was having a disproportionate impact on poorer communities.

He said: “From talking to GPs, whether it’s GPs at the other end of their career looking to retire earlier than they were planning, or people doing reduced hours, I think there’s a really big phenomenon.

“That’s what happens if you don’t value them. That’s what happens if you treat them as if they are a bit of an opponent rather than a partner. We’ve got to stop that, otherwise that will be a real capacity issue in years to come. In coastal and rural areas, that’s a big concern.”

Labour had included a commitment to recruit 5,000 trainee GPs to provide 27 million GP appointments as part of its 2019 manifesto.

The Department for Health and Social Care was approached for comment.

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