Paul Holmes asks Health Secretary if he will instruct GPs to get back to work

Portrait of Paul Holmes MP

On the 14th September Paul Holmes insinuated that GPs in Eastleigh haven’t been working

may I emphasise to the Secretary of State the amount of anger there is in Eastleigh about not being able to get a face-to-face appointment with a GP? He stood at the Dispatch Box and encouraged GPs to get back to work. If necessary, and if that uptake has not happened, will he instruct them to get back to work, so we can at least have face-to-face appointments for my constituents?

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2021-09-14c.809.0&s=speaker%3A25808#g829.4

He referred to the pandemic easing when he publicised his question on social media, and talks about returning to normal on his website. Unfortunately this complacency, when deaths are still averaging 1,000 per week and cases are rising alarmingly in schools, is likely to prolong Covid related issues getting face-to-face appointments. Surgeries and schools are not getting the investment they need to improve ventilation and control the virus, and the government seem to have all but abandoned proportionate public health measures to keep cases down going in to winter.

Three days after Paul’s question in Parliament, four members of staff were injured in an attack on GP surgery in Manchester. The BMA said,

The narrative that GPs are refusing to see patients face-to-face is dangerous and inaccurate and it has to stop. We call on the health secretary to speak up openly and unequivocally in support of general practice…

https://twitter.com/TheBMA/status/1440236346434482184?s=19

Paul hasn’t issued an apology publicly but has apparently said this on an Eastleigh social media group,

Let me make clear from the start that I respect and thank our GPs for the work they do. I am the first to admit that I was called near to last in that statement after two colleagues raised the same issue. I wasn’t expecting to be called and had to quickly speak. It was unwise to say get back to work. I should have said get back to physical appointments more quickly, and I apologise for the implication of the question.

That seems like a pretty weak excuse to me and, while any apology is obviously welcome, it certainly doesn’t go far enough to counter the narrative that GPs are refusing to see patients face-to-face. They are seeing patients, and have been throughout the pandemic. He should be apologising in Parliament and asking the health secretary to condemn the scapegoating of GPs rather than reinforcing the myth that they aren’t working.

It’s also somewhat misleading to just blame the pandemic for the lack of access to GPs. Thanks to the Conservative party, it has been difficult to get appointments for a long time. My own GP practice has had issues and had to merge with other GP practices to survive. While Paul complains about practices merging as if it’s nothing to do with his government, I’d rather they merged than closed completely.

Somewhat strangely for an MP in the ruling party, Paul is apparently campaigning for better access to NHS services. He shouldn’t be campaigning, he should be demanding to know why his government is failing to deliver. The prime minister personally guaranteed 50,000 more GP appointments in the 2019 general election. They would help. Having fuel to get to appointments would also be useful.

Perhaps the 6,000 new doctors are just like the 50,000 new nurses, or the 40 new hospitals. Just another broken promise from Paul and his party. Just keep blaming someone else for the problems.

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