RCGP Chair’s response to Sunday Times column criticising GPs

RCGP Chair’s response to Sunday Times column criticising GPs

from the RCGP website

Publication date: 01 February 2016

Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to Sarah Baxter’s column in the Sunday Times ‘If GPs can’t be bothered with us, let’s go straight to the chemist’:

Sarah Baxter, Deputy Editor of the Sunday Times, spent the day backtracking on Twitter yesterday after writing her outrageous column advocating a healthcare system similar to the US, where twice the GDP is spent on healthcare, outcomes are worse – and where healthcare is only widely available to those who can afford it.

After declaring in print that she wanted to ‘abolish GPs’, she conceded that she ‘totally believes that [we] work hard’ and that her vitriolic words were simply offering suggestions to reduce the workload burdens we are facing.

It didn’t come across that way. It came across as an ignorant rant because on one occasion, she was unable to wait for a call-back from her GP and decided to burden A&E instead.

As I said in my, apparently ‘hilarious’, speech on Saturday to the Local Medical Committees’ conference, GPs and our teams are making more than 370m patient consultations a year – 60m more than five years ago.

Unfortunately, we are only too well aware of the difficulties many patients are facing in trying to make a GP appointment and it is not because we aren’t working hard enough, or not offering more appointments.

GPs deliver 90% of patient care in the NHS for little over 8% of its budget.

I’m disappointed that she thought my Lord of the Rings analogy was hilarious when I was using it to accurately describe the despair that many colleagues feel with their current working conditions.

Rather than being constantly besmirched in the media, we need support for our campaign to increase investment in general practice, including thousands more GPs, so that we can deliver the care our patients need and deserve, without putting  our own health  – and their safety  – at risk.

Of course patients get sick outside of normal working hours – but that is not what seven day services are about. The Government’s plans are to introduce routine services, seven days a week, so you could, in effect, have your ears syringed on a Sunday afternoon. This is not the best use of scant NHS resources and there is a growing body of evidence, including the independent evaluation of ‘pilot’ sites where this has been happening, that there is little patient demand for this.

If you – or your child – are sick then you will always be able to access a GP through the routine system, or the GP out of hours system. But that too is in serious need of investment – another point I made in my ‘hilarious’ speech.

GPs value the expertise and skills our pharmacy colleagues highly. That is why we devised a scheme with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to place pharmacists in GP surgeries; a scheme that is now being funded and rolled out across England, and is set to significantly improve the service we can deliver to our patients with long-term health conditions.

I would like to reiterate my invitation to Sarah Baxter to spend a day in a GP practice and see first hand the pressures we are under, and the lengths we go to to ensure our patients get the best care possible. So far, I haven’t received a reply. Perhaps she is content to be led by her own solitary negative experience to shape her entire view of general practice.

I’m sure that the 1.3 million patients who will visit their GP surgery today alone will disagree.



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