GPs claim they cannot get a face to face meeting with the health secretary to discuss 'extreme pressure'

GPs campaigning for additional funding to help them meet a rising demand for care claim they cannot get a face-to-face meeting with the health secretary, after he urged them to meet more patients in person.

Health secretary Sajid Javid

The British Medical Association (BMA) claims it has been trying to secure a meeting with Sajid Javid for the last two months, to discuss the "extreme and unprecedented pressure" facing primary care, and that urgent action that is needed.

The minister has also been accused of scapegoating GPs, after he told Parliament last week that “more GPs should be offering face-to-face access” as “life is starting to return almost back to completely normal”.

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The Government is hiking national insurance contributions to raise £12bn a year for the NHS and social care and the BMA said it must provide more funding for GPs and other primary care providers.

Richard Vautrey, a Leeds GP who is chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee

It states these providers deal with around 90 per cent of patient contacts, but receives less than 10 per cent of the national health budget, and the pandemic has placed GPs under enormous pressure and they are now struggling to meet increasing demand.

In a letter to Mr Javid, Richard Vautrey, a Leeds GP who is chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, wrote: “The complete lack of primary care funding in the recent NHS funding announcement is completely counterproductive and fails to recognise the unprecedented pressures and backlog impacting services on a day to day basis.”

He told the Yorkshire Post: “We've been seeking a face-to-face appointment with the health secretary for the last few months and, as yet, he's not responded to our request.

“We've been criticised for not providing sufficient numbers of face-to-face appointments with our patients when in reality we're delivering millions of face-to-face appointments on a weekly basis and it's proving very difficult to get a face-to-face appointment with the secretary of state.

“The whole of primary care, particularly general practice and community nursing services, have been under-resourced for many, many years. We do have insufficient nurses in practice, as well as a lack of other nurses.

“That has had a real impact on really overstretched services.

“The priority is often hospitals, without recognising that it is community services that provide the foundation for a good hospital service.

“It's imperative that we commit, for the long term, to investing in community-based services, because the rest of the NHS depends upon that.”

The latest figures show 57.2 per cent of GP appointments were face-to-face in July 2021 and the Department of Health and Social Care said it is working to support these practices so they can see more patients in person and continue to offer remote appointments.

A spokesman for the department said: “The government is incredibly grateful for the tireless efforts of GPs throughout the pandemic.

“We regularly engage with GP stakeholders, including the British Medical Association to understand the pressures in general practice and have provided £270m of additional financial support to expand capacity on top of £1.5bn for extra staff to ensure patients have timely and clinically appropriate access to GP services.

“Patient safety is a top priority for the government and we expect patients to experience the same high quality of care regardless of how they access their GP surgery.”