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Health Secretary Sajid Javid defended plans to publish league tables showing which GP surgeries offer the most face-to-face appointments.
The proportion of appointments conducted face-to-face has fallen from about 80 per cent pre-pandemic to about 58 per cent in England in August.
The first league tables showing each practice’s performance are due to be published next April or May.
Mr Javid claimed that providing “more data, more transparency” would help drive up standards. “This whole package today is about support. This is all about helping GPs so that they can do what they do best, which is seeing their patients,” he told Sky News.
GPs who fail to provide an “appropriate” level of face-to-face appointments will not be eligible for the new funding.
The British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, said Mr Javid had failed to understand that GPs are battling soaring demand from patients with 2,000 fewer doctors than five years ago.
Doctors and practice staff are being subjected to increased levels of aggression from patients furious about delays to health care. Similar problems have been reported in A&Es, with about one in four patients now waiting more than four hours.
The BMA’s General Practitioners Committee chairman, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: “GPs across England will be truly horrified that this is being presented as a lifeline to general practice, when in reality it could sink the ship altogether.”
The Royal College of GPs called on the Government to fulfil its manifesto pledge of an additional 6,000 GPs and 26,000 other primary care professionals in the workforce by 2024 — a target highly likely to be missed.