Face off: the government versus GPs | News

When Covid-19 struck the UK in early 2020, GPs in England were already feeling the pinch of an increasingly ageing society presenting in their surgeries with increasingly complex medical needs. The arrival of the pandemic at an instant moved their work almost entirely online. Instead of face-to-face consultations being the norm, they became the exception. In their place came phone and video consultations.

But as lockdown ended and the country opened up, the demand for a return to in-person GP appointments has grown, fuelled in no small part by high-profile newspaper campaigns. Despite promises from the government to increase the number of GPs to ease some of the strain on the system, instead numbers have been dropping as doctors retire early or move to part-time work.

Last week the health secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that GPs in England would be handed £250m to improve their services but there was a catch: the money would only flow if they agreed to increase the number of patients being seen face-to-face under a new NHS action plan.

The Guardian’s health policy editor, Denis Campbell, tells Nosheen Iqbal that the plan has gone down very badly with beleagured GPs. One tells us that she has never faced a tougher year in her professional life, while a trainee doctor says that while he is determined to pursue a career in general practice he can see why others are leaving the profession.

Dr Judah Eastwell, a GP at St Johns medical centre in Altrincham, UK, consults a patient via a video link to their home. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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