‘Unwarranted GP bashing only makes our situation worse’ says College Chair

College Chair, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, featured in inews today commenting on the growing abuse levied against GPs due to the issues in access seen across the NHS. 

“GPs go into general practice because they want to care for patients, and we want to do our best for them. In reality, more patients are being seen in general practice than ever before, but our workloads are escalating at the same time as we have a severe shortage of GPs, so we are facing a daily battle to meet demand. 

“This situation is made worse by the totally unwarranted and undeserved ‘GP bashing’ that we receive all too often from some politicians and particular sections of the media. Not only is this denigrating and demoralising for GPs and our teams, it’s deeply damaging to the unique and trusted relationship that we have with our patients. Sadly, we are now seeing a worrying increase in the number of GP teams facing abuse from patients. 

“Being a GP has always been a demanding job, but the ongoing workload and workforce pressures are making the role increasingly unsustainable. During October, GPs and their teams delivered over 37 million appointments, all with 761 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs than in December 2019. The average number of patients per GP in England is now a staggering 2,294 – a jump of 151 since December 2019. 

“We often hear reports from GPs who say they are on the brink of burnout – which is not surprising, given that many GPs routinely make 40, 50 or more patient contacts a day, with a raft of bureaucratic and administrative responsibilities on top. Workdays regularly exceed 12 hours, with GPs first logging on at 7:30am and sending final emails after 8pm. This is not safe for patients or for the GPs providing their care.

“Every patient should be able to see a GP when they need to,  and we share our patients’ frustrations when they find it difficult to make an appointment – or even get through to the surgery – but we simply do not have enough GPs to cope. We are on the same side as our patients, but when their frustration turns into abuse, verbal or even physical, this has a significant impact on the mental health, wellbeing and morale of entire practice teams. This is unacceptable and it shouldn’t be happening. 

“General practice has been allowed to wither on the vine by successive governments for well over a decade now due to under-investment and poor workforce planning, and our patients and hardworking GP teams are bearing the brunt. While it’s encouraging that recruitment to GP training is buoyant, it takes 10 years to train a family doctor and more GPs are currently leaving the profession than are joining, so urgent action is needed to stem the flow.

“If we’re going to turn this dire situation around, we need significant investment in general practice, and efforts ramped up to increase the GP workforce, especially into keeping the GPs we already have in the profession for longer. Our manifesto for the forthcoming general election outlines seven solutions – including funding for GP recruitment and retention - that will help improve patient access to safe and timely care and ensure that there are enough GPs to safeguard the future of general practice and the wider NHS.”

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Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 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.