The next head of a ‘militant’ medical union considering industrial action over No10’s plan to boost face-to-face GP appointments could be a doctor who wants practices to stop offering patients ‘vital’ services.
Dr Farah Jameel, a GP in Camden, London, is one of two contenders shortlisted for the vacant role of chair of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) general practitioners committee.
Outgoing boss Dr Richard Vautrey last week announced he would step down at the end of November, after leading the union’s rebellion against Government plans to force GPs to see more patients in person.
His resignation came on the same day ballots were sent to surgeries across England asking if they would be willing to take industrial action.
Rumours soon began to circulate that Dr Vautrey actually decided to jump ship after finding himself at odds with more militant members of both his committee and the wider BMA.
Now MailOnline can reveal one of the two candidates ready to take over his position has already complained about family doctors having to provide additional services.
In Dr Jameel’s first-person piece for publication GPOnline in 2018, the United Arab Emirates-born medic claimed offering non-core services ‘is another example of GPs’ goodwill being exploited and taken advantage of.’
The article was attached with a strap that said: ‘You wouldn’t expect a builder to do a job on the side for free, or ask a lawyer to do some extra work without being paid for it. So why should it be any different for GPs?’
The same publication that Dr Jameel’s article was published in once described them as being a ‘vital’ part of service.
Non-core services include inserting pessaries, phlebotomies and spirometries. The NHS doesn’t pay for these, meaning doctors don’t have to offer them.
But critics say doctors should offer the services regardless and today condemned Dr Jameel’s ‘lax attitude’.
Dr Farah Jameel, a GP in Camden, north London, was today named as one of two contenders for vacant British Medical Association GP Committee chair role. She is currently one of three member of the committee’s executive team. In an article in 2018, she wrote that GPs should not be expected to carry out non-core work, such as ECG recordings, spirometry — a test to diagnose and monitor lung conditions — and post-operation stitch removal. It is ‘completely unacceptable’ that doctors were doing this work without extra funding, she said
Dr Chandra Kanneganti, a Conservative councilor and Lord Mayor for Stoke-on-Trent, was revealed as the other candidate hoping to replace outgoing chair Dr Richard Vautrey, whou last week announced he would step down from the role later this month amid a row over patient access to face-to-face appointments
Dr Richard Vautrey will step down as chair of the BMA’s GP committee later this month
A survey by GPOnline in 2018, the same year it described the services as vital, found 60 per cent of practices provided the non-funded care.
Dr Vautrey said at the time that doctors provide these services out of ‘goodwill and their feeling of professional responsibility, for no additional resource’.
In her article, Dr Jameel, who is one of three members of the BMA GP committee’s executive team, wrote it is ‘completely unacceptable’ that doctors were doing this work without funding.
She said: ‘General practice is under tremendous pressure as it is, without having to take on activity that is not funded.
‘At a time when doctors tell us that workload in general practice is reaching unmanageable and frankly unsafe levels, it is another example of GPs’ goodwill being exploited and taken advantage of.’
NHS waiting list hits ANOTHER record-high with 5.83MILLION patients in need of routine operations such as hip and knee replacements now stuck in queue
A record 5.83million patients are now on NHS waiting lists for routine treatment in England, official data revealed yesterday as hospital bosses warned they are already under ‘unsustainable’ pressure heading into winter.
The mammoth figure — which has snowballed since Covid struck — includes 10,000 patients who have spent two years in the queue for elective surgery, such as hip and knee replacements.
Hospitals were forced to cancel thousands of operations during the darkest days of the pandemic to make room for the infected, leaving lives ‘on hold’ for thousands of patients battling milder conditions.
Doctors yesterday warned the build-up was ‘concerning’ because winter pressures and staffing absences have yet to hit peak levels, describing the health service as being ‘on its knees’.
A poll of NHS bosses found nine in 10 felt the current situation — dealing with the pandemic-induced the backlog and Covid — is ‘unsustainable’ and patient care is being compromised.
Meanwhile, Labour slammed the ‘dangerously lengthy’ waiting times and warned the ‘coming weeks are set to be the most challenging in history for the NHS’.
Social care bosses have warned No10’s controversial ‘no jab, no job’ policy introduced yesterday for care home staff will only pile more pressure on NHS wards because the sector has less capacity to take on patients needing to be discharged from hospitals.
There are fears the same mandate, which will apply to all frontline NHS workers from spring, will lead to an exodus of staff just as the health service comes out of a tough winter and starts to tackle the backlog.
One sign of hope is that Covid appears to be shrinking, with hospital and death rates starting to fall in line with cases now.
Dr Jameel, who would be the first female chair of the committee if appointed, said offering the services without being paid for them meant doctors were ‘stretching themselves to the extent that they risk the quality and safety of the essential services they are contracted to provide’.
Dr Jameel, who is in her late thirties, said not correctly funding the services would cause GP morale to further plummet, as well as worsen staff recruitment and retention.
She added: ‘This is not about restricting GP services.
‘It is about providing safe, quality and accessible care to patients, at a time when GPs are being prevented from doing so by excessive and inappropriate or unresourced work, which is taking them away from their prime duty of care as GPs.’
Dr Jameel is running up against Dr Chandra Kanneganti, Conservative councilor and Lord Mayor for Stoke-on-Trent, Pulse magazine reported.
No other GP candidates put themselves forward. A vote deciding which one will be appointed will take place at a meeting on November 18.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told MailOnline: ‘Services should not suffer because some GPs are only willing to do the bare minimum.
‘The determination to pull out all the stops to help patients is one of the most admirable things about the NHS, but that is being threatened by BMA bean counting.
‘Taxpayers pay huge amounts for a comprehensive health service and expect to get the vital services they need.’
Morgan Schondelmeier, of the Adam Smith Institute thinktank, told MailOnline: ‘It’s concerning that a leading candidate for the BMA GP committee chair has such a lax attitude to patient care.
‘After over 18 months of remote GPs, the first priority should be ensuring patients can access necessary face-to-face treatments.
‘The answer isn’t to encourage GPs to turn away needy patients, but to reform the GP structure entirely.
‘We should pursue a new system which allows patients to decide which GP they see — including private GPs — enabling rapid and high quality treatment while reducing burden on the NHS.’
Dennis Reed, head of campaign group for older people Silver Voices, told MailOnline he gets ‘loads of emails’ from people because most GP practices ‘refuse to deal with’ patients requiring ear syringing or that have eye infections.
Instead, patients face paying up to £80 for these services, he said.
‘This has a real impact on older people who obviously can’t afford those sorts of that sort of money — it’s half a week’s state pension,’ he said.
The trend of GP services being cut back is ‘extremely disturbing’ and shows the contract between GPs and the Government is ‘no longer fit for purpose’, Mr Reed said
Latest figures showed four in ten GP appointments were still not being carried out face-to-face in September. For comparison, over the same period two years ago more than nine in ten were in person
Health Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled bold measures to get more GPs to see patients earlier this month. But his initiative was slammed by doctors who said that it was ‘unfair’ and indefensible. He is pictured above visiting a surgery in London last month
GPs dispute Javid’s claim lack of appointments is overloading A&Es
Top doctors have rejected claims that Britons are overwhelming emergency departments due to problems securing an appointment with their GP.
Sajid Javid told MPs last week a lack of GP appointments were to blame for the A&E crisis – which saw record numbers waiting 12 hours to be seen in September – but the Royal College of GPs disputed the claim.
Professor Martin Marshall, the college’s chair, said its 54,000 members ‘are dismayed and disappointed at the media coverage of your evidence session, which suggested that the lack of face-to-face GP appointments was placing additional strain on accident and emergency departments’, according to the Guardian.
He added: ‘You told the [health and social care select] committee you had seen data which showed that more patients were presenting at A&E departments because they were unable to access primary care.
‘I am not aware of any evidence to suggest that this is happening and would welcome sight of any data you have.’
It is the latest development in the growing row between doctors and Government over patient access.
Around six in 10 doctor appointments took place face-to-face in September, compared to eight in 10 before the pandemic.
The Government unveiled plans to give surgeries cash to increase their resources to see patients in-person and ‘name and shame’ those that did not see people in sufficient numbers.
The move triggered the British Medical Association to poll its members on taking industrial action over the plans. The results are due on November 18.
‘Face to face appointments, the out of hours service and home visits are now rarely taking place,’ he told MailOnline.
‘It is extremely disturbing that not only are some doctors actually welcoming these changes, but they want to go further in reducing what they regard as peripheral services to patients.
‘They really just have to be a tightening up of the contract and the government needs to get a grip on this otherwise there’ll be hardly any services at GP surgeries.’
A BMA spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The article in question was published more than three-and-a-half years ago, long before the pandemic wreaked havoc on all health services.
‘When Covid first struck, general practice was quick to completely overhaul the way it operated to protect patients and ensure they could access the care they needed. While general practice looks very different to how it did 20 months ago, it is under pressure like never before, and practices are delivering 2.7million more appointments a month than before the pandemic.
‘Meanwhile we have lost the equivalent of 1,700 full-time, fully-qualified GPs since 2015.
‘With current workload reaching unmanageable levels, and amid plummeting staff morale, there is an urgent need to address how quality and safety can be guaranteed. This means all work must be appropriately commissioned and properly resourced.
‘Inappropriate and unfunded workload takes GPs and their staff away from caring for the core needs of patients, and also wastes appointments which could be available for other ill patients needing to see their GP.’
Before announcing he would step down, Dr Vautrey, a GP in Leeds, said doctors should ‘not feel pressured to return to a traditional ten-minute treadmill of face-to-face consultations’ and urged them not to take on new patients.
Latest figures show four in ten GP appointments were still not being carried out face-to-face in England this September.
For comparison, over the same period two years ago, before the pandemic struck, more than nine in ten were in person.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid last month unveiled a £250million package of measures to get patients more face-to-face appointments, including a controversial proposal that would effectively ‘name and shame’ underperforming surgeries.
The BMA launched an indicative ballot of GP practices in England, asking if they support taking industrial action in four key areas. Critics described the union as acting ‘militant’.
These include refusing to carry out some parts of their job, including providing patients who are medically exempt from getting a Covid jab with a letter.
The ballot closes on November 14 and could pave the way for the first industrial action by doctors since the junior doctors strike five years ago.
But five years ago, before Dr Vautrey became chair of the BMA committee, he said remote consultations would be ineffective, as doctors would struggle to pick up on visual cues.
Patient groups, MPs and moderate doctors had all urged the BMA to back down and reach a compromise with ministers for the sake of millions of patients.
Dr Vautrey’s was chair of the BMA’s GP committee for four years and was part of its executive committee since 2004.