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GPs’ leader condemns ‘malicious criticism’ by politicians

GPs’ leader condemns ‘malicious criticism’ by politicians

The leader of Britain’s GPs has condemned politicians “malicious criticism” and “vilification” of family doctors amid a furious backlash from the profession at government demands for them to increase face-to-face appointments.

GPs’ leaders said a “blueprint” to improve general practice would do little to relieve the intense pressure on surgeries and would exacerbate the chronic shortage of family doctors by prompting more to quit.

Their criticism was echoed by the former Conservative health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said the government’s plan would fail and instead urged Sajid Javid to initiate a major recruitment drive to boost GP numbers.

It came as Javid, the health secretary, pulled out of a scheduled appearance at the Royal College of GPs’ annual conference in Liverpool at the last minute amid growing anger among family doctors at his failure to take the decisive action they were seeking to reduce workloads.

His non-appearance prompted claims that he was running scared of GPs. The health secretary opted to do a round of broadcast media appearances in London instead. He later visited a GP surgery in south-east London where he praised doctors for their “amazing work”.

Prof Martin Marshall, the college’s chair, vented GPs’ frustration in his speech at the event. He said GPs “unwittingly find ourselves at the centre of a public storm over face-to-face appointments”.

“The malicious criticism of the profession by certain sections of the media and some politicians as a result of the shift towards remote working – introduced to keep our patients safe and our teams safe and keep the service operating – has been the worst I can remember in over 30 years as a GP,” he said.

“This widespread vilification of hardworking GPs and our teams is unfair, demoralising and indefensible. No one working in general practice deserves this abuse.”

He did not name any politicians. However, in recent weeks Javid, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson have all made clear in blunt terms that they expect GPs to see more patients in person and return to pre-pandemic ways of working, despite the continuing threat from Covid-19.

Javid unveiled a new plan to give GPs in England an extra £250m – but only if they offered more in-person appointments as well as more consultations on the day the patient first calls.

Marshall also castigated the government’s intention to let patients rate the performance of their GPs using text messages, “based on their most recent experience of accessing support”.

“We are particularly concerned at plans to increase the scrutiny of hard-pressed practices and the introduction of an arbitrary text message service to rate the performance of particular GP practices,” he said. “There are already ways for patients to feed back on their experience. The introduction of more measures will further demoralise a profession that is already on its knees and demonise practices that are struggling.”

The British Medical Association (BMA), which negotiates GPs’ contracts with the government, criticised the government’s blueprint and Javid’s “preoccupation” with in-person appointments.

“These proposals will only confirm the profession’s belief that ministers and NHS England fail to understand the dire state of general practice – or that they, not hardworking GPs, are to blame,” said Dr Richard Vautrey, the chair of the BMA’s GP committee. “It’s truly frightening that we have a government so ignorant as to the needs of such a core part of the NHS.

“GPs across England will be truly horrified that this is being presented as a lifeline to general practice when in reality it could sink the ship altogether. There can be no doubt that this lack of action at such a critical time will force many GPs to hang up their stethoscopes and leave the profession for the last time.”

Hunt tweeted: “As someone who tried and failed to get 5,000 more GPs into the system, I don’t think this package will turn the tide.” He added that while in post he had expanded the number of young doctors choosing to train as GPs, the overall GP workforce continued to shrink because a larger number of older and more experienced family doctors retired or went part-time.

“This is a burnt-out workforce running on empty because of a massive mismatch between supply and demand. Sticking plaster after sticking plaster will no longer cut it,” he said.

He urged Javid to initiate a major recruitment drive to increase GP numbers, including incentives for retired GPs to return to clinical practice, an overhaul of pension rules that are prompting GPs and hospital doctors to retire earlier than planned, and moves to make it easier for family doctors in countries such as Canada and Australia to work in the UK.

Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, said the government’s plan to publish figures showing how many patients practices had seen face-to-face risked intensifying the trend towards early retirement.

“Sajid Javid’s plans to name and shame GPs risks driving even more doctors away from the profession. The government should focus on meeting their own target of hiring 6,000 more GPs, instead of attempting to shift the blame on to doctors for their own failings,” she said.

The health secretary said he and NHS England had spoken to the Royal College of GPs, the BMA and frontline GPs before unveiling the package of measures.

“What I’ve heard in that consultation is that you need more support, and rightly so; there’s a huge amount of demand on our fantastic GPs,” he said. “How we can help with that is providing the financial support, getting rid of some of this red tape and helping to shift some of that demand to other more sensible places.”

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Health

AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Health

Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Health

Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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