The doors of our surgeries may be locked but many have better access than ever. Let’s ensure this includes vulnerable people
GPs are up in arms about a letter sent out by NHS England reminding them of the obligation to see patients. It’s couched politely enough, acknowledging that “the vast majority of practices have made significant efforts to remain accessible to patients through the pandemic, and to keep staff and patients safe”. But this isn’t a thank you letter – the point is to admonish: “It is important that no practice suggests in their communication that the practice is closed or that the practice is not offering the option of face-to-face appointments.”
GPs highlight a previously unimaginable reconfiguration of services to keep the show on the road during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many have kept working at great personal risk, managing their normal workload while trying to keep up with the shifting sands of referral pathways and the responsibilities of keeping practices safe for staff and patients. The usual tempo and routine of general practice has been completely disrupted, and this bossy letter from NHSE is unnecessary, ill-timed and ungrateful. Patients arguably have better access than ever – with consultations online, on the phone, at extended out-of-hours clinics and, if considered necessary, in person.