The BMA has launched a public campaign to rally support for GP practices, including increased government investment, she said.
The ‘Support Your Surgery’ campaign comes as nearly half of the public in England said more doctors were needed in GP practices, according to a major BMA survey.
It comes amid the rise in abuses against the practices of general practitioners, who have recently seen practices targeted by bomb threats.
And researchers this week warned policymakers that supportive measures must be put in place to improve retention of general practitioners after a major study showed a steady increase in turnover over the past decade.
The public campaign aims to explain the pressures that GP is facing and “why it has been difficult for patients to see their GP face to face over the past 18 months,” said the BMA.
It includes a petition calling on the government to invest in general medicine so that it can “provide better services”, in particular by financing improved buildings and by seeking “more general practitioners”, added the BMA.
This follows a survey commissioned by the BMA, which found that nearly half (44%) of the public in England believe that ‘if they could make an improvement in their practice as a general practitioner it would be to increase the number of doctors ”.
The survey by consultancy firm BritainThinks, which interviewed 1,732 adults in England between August 6 and 8, also found that 58% of the practices of patient ‘support’ measures must have been put in place during the pandemic, like limiting face-to-face meetings.
But just over a quarter (26%) of those polled said GPs and other practice staff were now “responsible” for the backlog of routine GP appointments.
And six in 10 (60%) said the government, local commissioners or the NHS leadership are responsible, according to the BMA.
BMA GP Committee Chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said, “This campaign is about being upfront and honest with our patients.
“We know that Covid-19 has changed the look and feel of general medical services and that it can be incredibly frustrating for patients who just want to see their doctor, face to face, without delay.”
He added that decades of underfunding and severe staff shortages meant practices were “ill-prepared” for the pandemic and GPs and their teams were “just as frustrated” as patients.
Dr Vautrey said: “Although general practice staff have done everything in their power to improve the pressures in their own surgeries, we cannot make the changes that we and our patients want to see without the support and urgent government funding. “
Patients need to understand the “reality” that the pressures on general medicine “will only get worse if left unchecked,” he added.
He said: “General medicine is at a crossroads and the road for general medicine to get through this crisis is not guaranteed at the moment. All doctors want to do is help their patients, but we need the right funding and resources to do it, and at the standard our communities expect, which is understandable.
“We hope that this campaign, together with GPs and patients, marks the start of not only giving general medicine what it needs, but also what our patients rightly deserve.”
This is our sister publication, Impulse, reported last week that General practitioner vacancy rates remain high, with one in seven unfilled – and a group of researchers urged the government to address GP shortages, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
This story originally appeared in our sister title, Impulse.