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Media messages that seeing a GP is ‘virtually impossible’ need to end as practices continue to face abuse

by Beth Gault
7 November 2022

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Keep Your Practice Safe

The media rhetoric that it is ‘virtually impossible’ to see a GP needs to end, since it’s adding to the continual abuse of practice staff, the Practice Managers’ Association (PMA) has said. 

Instead, PMA’s director, Ian Jones said that compassion must be shown to GPs, practice managers and receptionists, who are already under enough pressure without claims about lack of access being touted. 

Mr Jones said the rhetoric had been going on ‘for some time’ and had now turned into a ‘political hot potato’.

‘The more the line is pedalled out, the more people believe it and the more damage it does,’ he said. 

‘GPs are seeing thousands of patients face to face – in addition to offering telephone consultations, which some people prefer.’

He added: ‘We’d hate to think the rhetoric was stopping patients picking up the phone. But the over-riding message is this – we know there are big waiting times in some areas, but GPs and practice staff are working flat out with the resources they have. Isolated incidents are being portrayed as “the norm”.’

It comes as the latest data from NHS Digital showed there were 26 million appointments in general practice in July, with over 44% of those being on the same day as they were booked.

Last month, it was revealed that ‘inaccurate and unfair’ negative media coverage of GPs in UK newspapers is contributing to workforce stress and the retention crisis.

In September, Management in Practice spoke to one surgery that had lost eight members of staff due to high levels of abuse.

The practice manager at Chapelgreen practice in Sheffield, Blake Foster, cited media coverage as one of the contributing factors.

‘Generally, there is a high level of demand and expectation and an unwillingness to wait,’ he told Management in Practice.

‘People want everything now and, on their terms, and we just can’t deliver that. It tends to worsen after media coverage where a negative opinion has been shared on general practice or the NHS, perhaps by politicians.  That seems to ignite the flame and make the abuse worse.’

Keep Your Practice Safe

Management in Practice has launched a campaign to #KeepYourPracticeSafe as more GP practices across the country are facing abuse. In a series of articles, we will share how practices are responding to the issue and what can be done to help safeguard staff. 

Read more stories from our campaign here: 

Managing patient abuse – how one practice removed its in-person reception

How practices can safeguard their staff from the impact of patient abuse

GP practice trialling ‘meet and greet’ reception following abuse from patients

GP practice urges patients to stop abuse after staff brought to tears

How to deal with aggressive patients

Managing patient abuse: ‘We’re constantly trying to adjust our systems to help’

And if you would like to get more involved in our Keeping our Practice Safe campaign, express a view, share an experience or write a blog/other article on the subject, please get in touch with editor Rima Evans.