Senior doctors warned that practice staff and GPs were stopping after an unprecedented and rising wave of abuse from patients who followed weeks of public pressure on face-to-face meetings.
Training managers, receptionists and doctors speak in daily confrontation with patients about issues including appointments, vaccinations and blood tests.
Many practices maintain Covid-19 protocols to prevent the spread of the virus, including the use of face masks; some patients refuse to wear them and become abusive when asked to do so.
The number of permanent GPs has continued to decline over the last five years – down 1,904 since 2016, or about 7% – to the point that in March this year there were only 26,805 left in the position.
The prime minister said on 22 September that the remaining GPs would have to deliver an additional 50 million appointments, saying it was “only reasonable” that people should be treated personally.
Released last week by The NHS Digital showed that GPs made about 25.5 million appointments in August, including 1.5m vaccines with Covid, compared to 23.8 million in August 2019. Remote consultants remain higher than before the pandemic, with 42% of consultants conducted via telephone or video link.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The criticism directed at GPs and our teams in some parts of the media and by some politicians in recent weeks is some of the worst memories. is incredibly demoralizing and unfair when you are working hard, trying to do your best for patients in a safe way as possible, to be constantly told that you are not doing enough.
“This is having a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of GPs and our teams, but also our relationship with our patients, with many reports of staff practice receiving end-of-life. abuse from failed patients.
“Our main fear is that this unfair investigation, on top of existing pressure, will be the last straw for many GPs and other members of the practice team, causing them to leave the profession before their time. “
He called on the government to show support for GPs and admin staff and immediately do good on a pre-pandemic commitment that recruit 6,000 GPs and 26,000 staff.
Javid is challenged on Radio 4’s Now program on Saturday about her support for newspaper campaigns after Dr Rachel Warrington, a GP partner in Bristol, said she did not support GPs and had no “understanding” of what was going on in the operations.
The health secretary said he wanted to work with GPs and reduce their administrative work, but did not accept that some face -to -face appointments were unnecessary.
Javid admitted that face-to-face appointments at pre-pandemic levels could not be delivered at the current time. “Right now, we’ve been talking to GP leaders… and they’ve brought up some, I think, great ideas and points about what else can be done.”
Angelika Slon, who manages a practice in south London, said she sees a large number of staff disappearing as a direct result of patient abuse and the rapid increase in employment.
“There are a lot of good patients,” he said. “But the amount of rudeness went up. We were unmanned – I recruited two new recipients in the summer. One was left for a few days and the other left after a week and a half, because they didn’t cope with the pressure. “The staff is also leaving, he said.
At the onset of the pandemic, patients were supportive, Slon said, but as vaccination levels increased and restrictions relaxed, some patients reacted badly to being told that the practice continued to maintain control measures. NHS infections, including wearing masks.
Other problems include the lack of vial blood tests and the delay in the delivery of flu vaccines. In the worst case, practices write to abusive patients to warn them that they may be removed from their list. “Very rarely,” Slon said. “Maybe something that happens three times a year. This year I wrote more than I ever did. In the last two weeks I sent two.”
Anila Jethwa, who has worked as a receptionist in north-west London for 19 years, says: “It happens every day. I will be 60 next year. I will look at my pension and if I can only survive on it I will retire. If I can’t, I will continue to work but I will not work on hiring. ”
Receptionists often carry bad behavior, but GPs are also affected.
The GPs contacted Observer anonymously spoke about the strain on their mental health. One said he was doing his notice period. “I love being a GP,” he said. “But I get burnt. I feel useless, scarred for life. “
A salaried GP who qualified in 2019 said: I really have nothing for my family. The worst part is where patients are aggressive and hostile until the chief I’m close to tears, I feel my attempts to help people and do my job are completely unappreciated. “
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chairman of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said there was some evidence that GPs were leaving their permanent duties. “We’re getting double the numbers starting to use our system,” Fieldhouse said. “We have about 6,000 members, so about 30% of the locums across the country. It’s very demoralized right now.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said a record number of people are training to become GPs, with up to 4,000 new starts this year.
“This government has zero-tolerance for abuse or violence directed at NHS staff,” a spokesman for the NHS said. “Everyone has the right to work without fear of abuse or neglect in a safe and secure environment.
“We are taking action to protect staff through the NHS violence reduction program and will support the NHS, police and the Crown Prosecuting Service to bring offenders to justice.”