Doctor’s dismay at Prime Minister’s seven-day claim

A family doctor has written an open letter to Theresa May accusing her of breaking the bond of trust between patient and GP – by suggesting surgeries are not working hard enough.

Writing in response to reports that the PM wants practices to open-all-hours to alleviate a current health crisis (which she won’t even publicly acknowledge exists!), Dr Zahid Chauhan states that the NHS already has 365-day-a-year GP care which is, “being hampered by an increase in demand that has not been matched by adequate funding from Government.”

Aside from pointing out that GPs are now having to work in A&E units, nursing homes, cover out-of-hours, fill in for dentists and act as administration machines to verify personal injury and benefits claims, the Oldham medic said that the Government’s criticism of general practitioners “threatens to undermine our profession and create a schism between doctor and patient when trust between the two is paramount.”

Dr Chauhan wrote: “My perception generally is that (Mrs May’s) Government is resisting tackling the real problems within the NHS and instead is pushing the blame from one set of healthcare professionals to the next. Individual hospital trusts, junior doctors and now GPs seem to be in the firing line when the real issue is the inadequate funding the NHS receives. Who next I wonder? Nurses? Hard working pharmacists? Or perhaps you will put the blame on patients for having the audacity to become ill?”

Plans to open GP surgeries for seven-day appointments were piloted in 2015 under David Cameron’s premiership. But an independent report found that there had been low take-up of weekend appointments – particularly on Sundays – which forced some clinical commissioning groups to actually end the practice due to low demand.

With the average wait for a GP appointment now 13 days, Dr Chauhan believes his colleagues would welcome the notion of seeing and crucially treating more patients – but they simply don’t have the wherewithal to do so. One of the central problems is the lack of qualified GPs, with British medical students put off the profession by stress and long hours and instead attracted by better pay and conditions in countries such as Australia and Canada.

Accusing the Prime Minister of, “tinkering and blaming” Dr Chauhan asked her to take a more hands-on approach and instead set up a commission or, “orchestrate a cross-party initiative to find solutions to a crisis that has nearly resulted in our health system collapsing this winter.”

He concluded: “Every day NHS staff are working above and beyond to ensure all of our families receive the finest healthcare. For their sakes and for all of those whose lives you are risking, come to us, listen to us and let us make sure our NHS remains secure for generations to come.”

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