ALMOST HALF OF THE PUBLIC IN ENGLAND say if they could make one improvement to their GP practice, it would be to increase the number of doctors, according to a survey commissioned by the BMA.

These findings underpin a campaign launched by the BMA, ‘Support Your Surgery’, encouraging members of the public to support the Association’s call for Government investment in general practice to provide better services.

As part of the campaign, a petition has been set up by the BMA for the public to sign, which calls on the Westminster Government to also fund improved buildings and source more GPs. The campaign also explains the pressures on general practice, and why it’s been difficult for patients to see their GP face-to-face over the last 18 months.

Demand on general practice and its workforce increased hugely during the pandemic, as practices kept patients safe by introducing infection control measures which has limited the number of people GPs and their staff could see face-to-face.

Although 58 per cent of the public surveyed support these measures, GPs know this has been frustrating – in fact, a recent BMA survey found that one in five GPs reported being threatened, and another 67 per cent said their experience of abuse, threatening behaviour or violence had got worse in the last year.

Sixty per cent of those surveyed felt that the Government, local commissioning groups and NHS management were largely responsible for the backlog of care and lack of access to a GP, with just a quarter feeling that GPs and other healthcare staff in surgeries were to blame.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee chair at the BMA, said: “This campaign is about being upfront and honest with our patients. We know that Covid-19 has changed how GP services look and feel, and that it can be incredibly frustrating for patients who just want to see their doctor, face-to-face, without delay.

“We, like the rest of the NHS, were ill-prepared for the pandemic – with decades of underfunding and seriously short on staff, and the consequences of the last 18 months have added significantly to these pressures. They have also been understandably very stressful for patients and, sadly, this has resulted in poor behaviours, or worse, with some staff reporting cases of abuse and violence from patients.

“This isn’t the way we want it to be. GPs and their teams are just as frustrated, and while the general practice workforce have done everything in their power to improve pressures in their own surgeries, we can’t make the changes we and our patients want to see without urgent Government backing and funding.

“It’s important that patients understand the reality of this crisis and that, despite the easing of lockdown, the pressures on general practice will only get worse if nothing is done. Not only is Covid-19 still a threat, but GPs also continue to deliver the vaccine rollout; annual winter pressures and the flu season could make things worse; and the backlog of care is constantly growing.

“General practice is at a crossroads and the route for general practice to get through this crisis isn’t guaranteed at the moment. All doctors want to do is help their patients, but we need the right funding and resources to do that, and to the standard that our communities understandably expect.

“We hope this campaign, with GPs and patients working together, is the beginning of not only giving general practice what it needs, but also what our patients rightfully deserve. We therefore urge everyone to sign our petition calling on Government to provide the funding we need for better services and more doctors. If you support your surgery, it means it can be there to support you.”

* More information on the campaign here.

* The ‘Support Your Surgery’ petition is here.

* Source: British Medical Association