College defends GPs against media criticism

Responding to coverage of House of Commons Library figures on remote consultations in sections of the media over the weekend, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s influential PM programme to defend GPs against unfair criticism and set out the College’s position on remote consulting.

Professor Marshall said: “The new ways in which GPs and our teams have been working were implemented in response to the pandemic in order to protect patients. The pandemic isn't yet over, and there is still a need for caution and infection control measures in practices. That said, NHS Digital's latest figures from July show that well over half, about 56 per cent, of appointments were face to face, so we are now seeing a rebalancing of remote and face to face consultations.

"Face to face consulting will always be an essential element of general practice, but remote consulting should also be an option as things get back to normal because there are advantages to both. Remote consultations, for example, can be more convenient for some patients who lead busy lives and might previously have put off an important appointment. While for some harder to reach patient groups, or those with mobility issues, they can improve access. But of course we know many patients prefer to see their GP face to face, and many GPs prefer consulting in person as well, particularly for patients with urgent or complex health needs or with issues that might be missed remotely, such as problems with alcohol or mental health. What we want to see post-pandemic, is for decisions about how GP care is delivered to be a shared one between GP practice staff, based on their knowledge of their patient population, and patients, based on their needs and preferences."

“While GPs and our teams have worked extremely hard to make sure general practice remained open throughout the pandemic, including for face to face consultations where appropriate, the fact is, we have a huge shortage of GPs and our workforce is not big enough to manage the needs of an ageing and growing patient population with increasingly complex needs. This was the case before the pandemic and it has only been further exacerbated by the events of the past year. The Government made a manifesto pledge of an additional 6,000 GPs by 2024 – plus 26,000 additional practice staff - and we urgently need to see progress so that we can safely deliver the care and services that our patients need, now and in the future.”

Further information

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RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574
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Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.