'We're all human' - Bristol GP speaks out as doctors are 'leaving in their droves'

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A Bristol doctor has spoken out on the so-called "smear campaign" against GPs, as health professionals face a wave of abuse over a lack of face-to-face appointments.

Dr Shaba Nabi said her surgery in Easton is busier than it was during the pandemic and senior general practitioners are "leaving in their droves" because of the pressure.

"I think it's important that the public know the truth, and the truth is that we're a system under huge pressure," Dr Shaba told ITV News.

"Scapegoating general practice is not the answer to that problem. I just want people's understanding. Nothing else. I don't want claps, I don't want cards, I just want a bit of understanding from the public that we're all humans first."

A new "remote first" way of dealing with patients has reduced the number of face-to-face appointments being offered by GP surgeries.

This has been introduced for two reasons, according to Dr Shaba. Firstly, the fact that coronavirus is still spreading, and secondly, there aren't enough doctors to keep up with increasing patient numbers.

She would rather see patients in person, she said, but the new way of working is making surgeries more efficient.

Dr Shaba has worked as a GP for more than 20 years.

"I am having contact with 25% more patients than I did pre-Covid," Dr Shaba said.

"I could not do that if they were all face to face. The reason I have managed to increase my productivity by 25% is because I can do so much of it remotely. We probably are moving to a new normal, but that doesn't make it bad, it doesn't make it good, it just is what it is."

The British Medical Association (BMA) said doctors are now being subjected to a tirade of abuse from patients who are frustrated that they can't get in-person appointments.

The union has called for the Government to intervene, refuting the claims GPs are refusing to give out face-to-face appointments as "dangerous" and "inaccurate".

Dr Shaba said they are busier now than ever before, partly due to the backlog caused by the pandemic.

"The biggest thing is patients followed the advice of the Government to protect the NHS and not come into see their doctors, and for a short time that was appropriate, but unfortunately people's problems don't go away," she said.

"They carry on having their ailments and there's just a build up of that. There's 18 months worth of non-Covid illnesses that have built up."

Dr Shaba knows NHS doctors who have left the jobs because of significant burnout, but she said she is yet to reach that point.

However she admitted the combination of relentless demand and fewer staff is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with.

"One of my biggest regrets is not being there more for my children in the first wave," she said.

"I was only working two days a week, but I came in every day, and I didn't see my children. They were at home and they were suffering, and they suffer now.

"That is one of my biggest regrets - not to have been home with them."

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said:

“We’re hugely grateful to GP practices for their hard work and dedication to bring appointment numbers back to pre-pandemic levels, with over 330 million delivered in the last year.

“The NHS has been clear GP practices must provide face to face appointments, alongside remote consultations, and over half of all appointments in July were face to face.

“We are investing £270 million to expand GP capacity, on top of providing £1.5 billion to the sector until 2023/24 to deliver world-class care to patients.”