The British Medical Association has written to the Health Secretary urging him to step in and tackle “the wave of growing abuse” against GPs.
In the letter to Sajid Javid, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said there needed to be a change in legislation to increase the maximum prison sentence for assault against emergency workers from 12 months to two years.
He also said the Government must publicly support the profession by condemning “the onslaught of abuse and media scapegoating of GPs and their staff”.
It comes after four members of staff suffered injuries at the Florence House Medical Practice in Openshaw, Manchester, on Friday afternoon.
Two of the victims were taken to hospital with head injuries and a 59-year-old man was arrested and charged with assault.
GPs have also come under fire in the media over the number of remote consultations now offered to patients.
Dr Nagpaul said GPs had worked tirelessly over the course of the pandemic, as had general practice staff.
“As dangerous as it is inaccurate”
He said the narrative that practices are not offering face-to-face appointments is “as dangerous as it is inaccurate”.
Dr Nagpaul added: “The reality, as you must know, is that with the constraints of the size of GP practice premises, there are limits on how many people can safely be present in a waiting room while adhering to appropriate infection control measures.
“GP practices, in the same way as hospitals, are using telephone, video and online consultations to assess patients (in accordance with NHS England guidance) and provide them with physical face-to-face consultations when this is needed.
“Many practice premises are too small and poorly ventilated, and with high circulating levels of Covid, we have a duty to protect our older and clinically vulnerable patients from becoming infected when they attend their GP surgery.”
He said the truth was that “GPs are seeing more patients than ever” and “working longer hours than ever”.
NHS GP appointments data shows there were nearly one million more appointments in July 2021 than pre-pandemic levels (July 2019), he added.
“Whilst GPs are being vilified for offering telephone consultations, they are doing so purely for the safety of their patients and which in fact our survey shows is more exhausting for GPs and result in longer days.
“It is soul-destroying for GPs and their staff to hear the narrative that they are ‘closed’.”