How GPs are hurting NHS and vaccine rollout – Tom Richmond

THE public’s admiration and appreciation of the NHS remains undiminished more than a year into the Covid crisis. The same, however, cannot be said for all GP practices.

What is your verdict on GP services?
What is your verdict on GP services?

Even though they’re the effective frontline of the National Health Service, some medical centres were difficult to contact before the pandemic. Now some have become even more remote.

This became abundantly clear to me when I was asked to confirm the name of my GP when I received my first Covid vaccine last week.

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I could not because it’s probably easier to secure a virtual audience with the Queen – or the Pope for that matter – than have a telephone consultation, never mind an appointment of any sort, with a doctor at the medical practice in question.

Has it become harder to speak to a GP following Covid?

“Don’t worry,” said the very helpful receptionist at the pharmacy-run vaccine centre set up in a Leeds hotel. “You’re not the first person to say that. A lot of people are unhappy with their GPs.”

Words that, strangely, were reassuring at the time moments before I received a pain and hassle-free vaccine (AstraZeneca), they became more alarming when set in the context of a subsequent Channel Four News 

This was when the veteran broadcaster Jon Snow interviewed Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the Exeter Medical School, about the low vaccine take-up rate amongst BAME communities as the lockdown is eased.

What was notable was that he did not blame politicians like Boris Johnson who, in fairness, used a recent visit to Batley to highlight the issue in his own imitable way.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets doctor Chantelle Ratcliffe before she administers the vaccine to Ismail Patel during a visit at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Batley.

Instead he talked about the importance of community engagement – and lessons learned from his past work as a public health consultant. “The best people to engage are GPs,” he told Snow who is one of the few TV presenters to listen to his guests.

“When I was a consultant in charge of communicable diseases in Bristol, I went out into the local community, found out what their problems were and then explained to them in their own terms in their own language.

“It is that sort of intervention that works really well – what I call shoe leather epidemiology. You get the people who know the subject to go to the people, find out what the issues are, and talk about it.”

It sounded like a very practical and pragmatic remedy – and I’d like to think there are GP practices across this region, and beyond, who are following this common sense advice as TV comedian Sir Lenny Henry encourages his followers to have the Covid vaccine.

Labour's Sir Keir Starmer is on the defensive a year after becoming party leader.

But it also requires doctors to be willing, and able, to communicate with their patients proactively rather than pulling the shutters down and hoping the public will go away.

And, given that the highest possible vaccine take-up rate is in the best interests of doctors, NHS and society as a whole, it’s a fairly damning reflection on the culture of some GP practices that they even need to be reminded of their wider public health responsibilities. Why?

SIR Keir Starmer likes to tell people that his party has changed after becoming leader a year ago this weekend. “This is a different Labour Party, under new leadership,” he wrote in this newspaper last month.

The memo has clearly not reached Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel who has labelled business as “the enemy”. He was reportedly speaking in the context of climate change.

The BBC screened a moving protrait of football legend Jack Charlton this week.

Enemy? Sobel is only the Shadow Tourism Minister. He was also one of the first to endorse Tracy Brabin as Labour’s mayoral candidate for West Yorkshire.

And that he was only reprimanded by Starmer for such candour, and not relieved of his duties, suggests that Labour has a long way to go before it can be, once again, described as a moderate, mainstream party that also intends to be pro-business.

WELL done to football legend Thierry Henry for announcing a boycott of social media until platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook tackle online hatred.

He has more than 14 million followers – exactly the same number of people who voted for the Tories when they won the 1992 election under John Major.

And far more than Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Global Affairs Vice President, ever accrued when he was leading the Lib Dems.

As such, the question is this: just what will it take for Clegg take a stand on behalf of victims of hatred who he sought to champion during his political career.

Or do they not count any more?

FINDING Jack Charlton, a BBC2 documentary into the life and times of a football legend, was a real tear-jerker – particularly the poignancy when the 1966 World Cup winner sat down to watch footage of some of the great moments in his sporting life.

“I couldn’t remember a lot of the memories,” said this once larger than life figure who succumbed to dementia and cancer last summer after becoming a shadow of the ‘Big Jack’ that so many people came to respect and admire.

What it did show was the power of sport – Charlton’s charismatic management of the Republic of Ireland gave hope to many at a time of strife – and society’s duty to do far more to support victims of dementia and their families.

I’m simply in awe of all those struggling to cope on a daily, even hourly, basis and hope the Covid pandemic does not delay, still further, the national conversation that needs to take place on how best to support those afflicted by this cruellest of conditions.

They do deserve sympathy. They also deserve better.

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