MISLEADING media reports about GPs in England are fuelling abuse of doctors in Scotland’s biggest health board, a major medical organisation has claimed.

The Glasgow Local Medical Committee (GLMC), which represents GPs in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, sent a letter to the city’s MSPs warning them family doctors were facing rising levels of abuse amid a chaotic situation in general practice.

The letter, seen by The National, said staff and doctors were facing aggression from members of the public because of a dangerous cocktail of “understandable anxiety and frustration”, “a lack of awareness of the position that General Practice is in” and “some misleading media reports particularly within the press in England over recent months”.

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When asked specifically which reports they were referring to, the GLMC would provide no further details. 

'Misleading reports from English press' 

The letter warned that the “gap between demand and capacity has widened dramatically over the past few weeks” adding: “Practices are inevitably having to focus on urgent care, prioritising those cases above less urgent requests for consultations currently.

“This unfortunately means that some patients will need to wait longer for their appointments, and access to book ahead appointments may need to be curtailed in the short term, to provide sufficient capacity for urgent access.

“This is not a situation that GPs and practices find comfortable, as they are acutely aware of the need to be able to provide continuity of care to those patients with long-term conditions and to be available to the frail and elderly within their practice populations.”

It went on: “We are sure that you will be concerned to hear reports of the levels of abuse GPs and their staff are facing as they work to care for their patients.

“We think this is being driven not only by understandable anxiety and frustration but also by a lack of awareness of the position that general practice is in and some misleading media reports particularly within the press in England over recent months.”

'No excuse or justification' 

Maryhill and Springburn MSP Bob Doris (below) told The National: “It is important that media outlets report on the undoubted challenges facing the NHS, but they should do so responsibly- as many do.

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“However, I am appalled to hear irresponsible journalism may have contributed to aggression towards GPs and their staff.”

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He added: “I am absolutely concerned to hear reports of the levels of abuse GPs and their staff are facing as they work to care for their patients. I appreciate that many patients will have great anxiety and frustration but there is never any excuse to target hard-working and committed NHS staff who routinely go above and beyond to help patients.

“It is important to remember that GP practices and their staff had to adapt service delivery at speed during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to safely deliver patient care. They remained open throughout the pandemic to serve communities and often had to look at new models of care to be able to see patients safely. We owe them our gratitude, not our aggression.”

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Kaukab Stewart (below), the MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, said: “Many people continue to have a good experience of accessing the care and treatment they need from their GP, practice nurse, or other primary care team member, even in these challenging times for health care services in Scotland and across the UK.

The National:

“I know that primary care practitioners, including GPs, are working as hard as they possibly can to care for people approaching them for help and advice. There is absolutely no excuse or justification for abusing primary care staff.

“It is unacceptable and ultimately self-defeating. I am very grateful to all NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health care staff for the job they do in very challenging times and with such skill and dedication.”

A spokesperson for the GLMC said: “Glasgow LMC is concerned that GPs and practice staff are facing abuse when seeking to care for their patients. Abuse, be that verbal or physical, is unacceptable.

“GPs and their practice teams are working extremely hard and this kind of behaviour is demoralising for them.”