- Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of GPS, retaliated against the criticism today
- Claimed that pandemic pressure, staffing problems and infection control are still a concern
- Defends sweeping move to virtual appointments, claims it was ‘positive’
Top doctors today fought back against face-to-face calls to make GP appointments the default again, claiming it was ‘unqualified’.
The Royal College of General Practitioners, which represents more than 50,000 GPs, said the practices were grappling with staffing issues and delayed diagnoses during the pandemic had led to a surge in demand.
RCGP President Martin Marshall also warned that there are still too many COVIDs in the community for practices to return to the crowded waiting rooms.
Boris Johnson last night pressured GPs to offer more consultations in person, with his spokesman claiming every patient had a right if they wanted to.
But Professor Marshall told lawmakers on the Health and Social Care Committee today: ‘There’s no point in having authority if it’s unreliable at the moment because of work pressure.’
He defended the widespread move to virtual GP appointments, claiming it was a ‘positive’ and more convenient for most patients.
Statistics show that only 57 percent of appointments are now face-to-face, compared to 80 percent before the pandemic.
Amid fears of missing cancer and serious health conditions in far-flung consultations, charities and politicians are struggling to get the prime minister to act.
A damning study published last night by University College London warned of 10,000 additional cancer deaths due to delayed diagnosis and lack of face-to-face care.
RCGP President Martin Marshall warns there is still too much Covid in the community for practices to return to packed waiting rooms
As of March 2020, around 80 per cent of all appointments across England were in person, but this dropped to 46.8 per cent last April and has not increased above 57 per cent since then.
In-person appointments began to increase last summer, before dropping again during the second wave. Despite being on the rise, figures are still far below pre-pandemic levels
Professor Marshall said: ‘What we have learned from the pandemic is that we can remotely do more than we think in common practice, and that is a positive bit of learning.
‘There are so many things that can be done without anyone checking in or being in the same room.
‘Having said that, face-to-face contact, in particular, is an important part of dealing with more complex problems.’
Full-time GPs are a thing of the past, warns top doctor
Full-time working GPs are ‘something we will never see again’, warned Professor Marshall.
Speaking to MPs today on the Committee on Health and Social Care on clearing up the NHS backlog due to the pandemic, he said three-day weeks are here for GPs to stay in.
Long hours, intense pressure and young doctors looking for diverse careers mean doctors working five days a day won’t return.
It would save money for existing GPs to work longer hours than to train more new doctors, but it would be unsafe to force them to do so, he warned.
Part-time GPs work three days a week for 11 to 12 hours ‘under severe pressure’, which Professor Marshall has called ‘quite full-time’.
He said: ‘I don’t think it would be our job as a professional body to force people to work more sessions where they don’t feel safe working in those extra sessions, and at this point We are in this situation.
‘The pressure of general practice is not only impacting our ability to provide personalized care, which is what we as GPs want to do, but it is also increasingly impacting our ability to provide safe care.
‘So if I force one of my colleagues – the only way I can, which I have no lever to do – but if I tell someone you really have to work four days a week and as a result They will start making diagnostic errors or making fixed errors, that’s no good for anyone.
‘So while general practice is under pressure, there are very few people who feel they are capable of working full time.
‘And secondly we have to accept the reality that the younger generation, physicians of all kinds, want career portfolios, they want mixed careers, they don’t want to work full time. So I think the model of a full-time GP is probably something we won’t see again.’
Responding to Downing Street’s comments last night, he said: ‘People are saying the patient should have a right.
‘There is no point in having authority if it is unreliable and it is essentially indivisible at the moment because of work pressure.’
He said the GP workload had increased ‘and in fact over the past decade’ over the pandemic.
And he added: ‘The other thing that’s really important is that the pandemic is not over.
‘We would like to think – it is not over, it may be over for pubs and nightclubs, it is not over for health services.
‘It’s really important that if you run a healthcare service, whether in general practice or in hospitals, that you protect vulnerable patients.
‘About one in 70 and 80 patients in this country have got covid, so the idea of having someone who is fit and healthy, but sitting next to someone who is weak in the waiting room, is just something This is not acceptable.’
Professor Marshall was asked by committee chair and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt why people are not seeing the same GP for repeated appointments.
He told lawmakers that staff shortages and flexible working made it difficult to guarantee that each patient had a family doctor.
Professor Marshall said: ‘I think the essence of general practice is the long-term relationship that the patient and their GP are able to develop, which gives you an understanding of people’s health beliefs and allows you to diagnose more effectively .
‘So this concept of continuity of care has…