Politicians need to work with NHS staff rather than work against them, says DAUK co-chair Dr Ellen Welch on LBC

DAUK’s co-chair Dr Ellen Welch appeared in the LBC show with Nick Ferrari. 

Dr Welch says:

I was invited to speak on Nick Ferrari’s breakfast show on LBC yesterday as co-chair of DAUK to discuss shadow health Secretary Wes Streetings comments this weekend (see below) “declaring war” on NHS staff.*

Mr Ferrari and I clashed over the numbers. He discounted the figures I attempted to present from NHS digital (https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/appointments-in-general-practice/october-2022 )(which show NHS GPs consulted with 7m patients per WEEK in October, and this doesn’t include econsults) He spoke over me, eager to point out that GPs are not ‘seeing’ patients (71.3% of Octobers GP appointments were actually carried out face to face), diverting the conversation to the well loved face to face debate.

Quite simply- the NHS is burning. Casting NHS staff as villains in this saga is divisive and shows a basic lack of understanding of the problems. We all want standards to be better because we are all going to be patients one day, but hollow sound bites from politicians and radio hosts does nothing more than provide entertainment.

We need politicians of all colours to work with NHS staff. Listen to the problems. Visit GP practices and hospitals and talk to people living this every day.

Demand is escalating and general practice has adapted to manage that a safely as possible. GP numbers are falling. It doesn’t matter how many GPs our health secretaries promise to recruit if they are all burning out and leaving before they finish their training. I’ll say this again and again but the biggest resource the NHS has is it’s staff and if we can get the basics right by looking after staff then the service will improve. The “something for nothing culture in the NHS” that Streeting mentions is actually what has been keeping it afloat for years – staff working hours of unpaid overtime, but this goodwill has been sucked away.

The motion to reduce core GP hours to 9-5 (from 52.5 hours per week to a standard 40) is an attempt to reign in this chaos and preserve the workforce that remains. GPs are often working 12 hour days, consulting way above the numbers of patients deemed bsafe per day. This is an attempt to stop the burnout. We can’t conjure up experienced GPs but we can protect the few we have left.

GPS are getting ill, becoming patients themselves, burning out and committing suicide.
Our workload is currently uncapped and this is an attempt to raise the alarm at how bad things are.

(*For those that missed it- he spoke of his own poor experience as a patient waiting for scans. He said: “Given that we have committed to more staff, I cannot for the life of me understand why the BMA is so hostile to the idea that with more staff, must come better standards for patients.

“Whenever I point out the appalling state of access to primary care, I am treated like some sort of heretic by the BMA – who seem to think any criticism of patient access to primary care is somehow an attack on GPs”.
Mr Streeting, criticising what he called “defensive attitudes”, said that Labour would not have a “something for nothing culture in the NHS”.)