At our meeting last weekend, Doctors in Unite passed the following resolution in solidarity with the staff at Florence House Medical Centre, and general practices across the country:
“This branch is horrified at the brutal attack on staff at the Florence House Medical Practice in Openshaw on Friday 17th September 2021
Health workers across the NHS and social care have gone way beyond the call of duty to keep the public safe during the COVID 19 pandemic. Despite this General Practice is being vilified by the right wing media such as the Daily Mail. The Government and NHSE have sat on their hands, failing to come to the support of hard working staff in surgeries, instead they are allowing dedicated staff to be used as scapegoats for their own abysmal failings.
The reality is that General Practice provided 29.7 million appointments in July alone, 45.4% of which were same day appointments.
Telephone and digital first models of providing General Practice care rapidly increased in April 2020, on instruction from NHS England, in order to reduce viral transmission, keep patients safe and away from overcrowded waiting rooms and to keep staff well so that surgeries could still provide a service. Coronavirus is still with us and the need to minimise transmission has not gone away.
We acknowledge that some patients mourn the loss of an automatic face to face appointment and many GPs share this feeling, preferring to see patients in person. In part this is a consequence of Covid, but even more so reflects serious under-investment in primary care over recent decades. We believe that patients need longer time with their GPs but this will only be possible by dramatically increasing GP numbers and reducing patient list sizes, both of which require Government investment which has been seriously lacking.
Telephone and Digital appointments can be as effective as face to face appointments for some problems. Many patients like them and feel that their GP is much more accessible. Of course, we must be aware of the digital divide but most practices have measures in place to accommodate patients who, for whatever reason, do not use the internet. Face to face appointments are, despite what the Daily Mail say, still provided regularly when GP and patient agree that this is necessary.
General Practice staff, especially receptionists are right on the front line, more so than most, and are particularly vulnerable. Levels of stress and burnout amongst GPs area at an all-time high with many leaving the profession.
It is despicable that the media have been allowed to whip people into such a frenzy that someone felt emboldened to attack General Practice staff so violently as has happened at Florence House.
We stand in solidarity with the staff at Florence House Medical Practice and call on the Government and NHS England to condemn the attacks and to tell the truth that the whole of the NHS, including General Practice, is working extremely hard to care for patients.
We also stand in solidarity with patients who deserve an NHS that is adequately funded to provide for their needs. This Government are a far cry from providing such a health service.
Government and NHSE must suspend all non-patient facing tasks in General Practice including CQC inspections and appraisals, to allow overstretched practices to concentrate on patient care.
We call for the NHS to be restored as a comprehensive, cradle to the grave health system, publicly funded, publicly provided and free at the point of use for all.”