Letter: Don't blame GPs

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report (10 February) about the rise in NHS waiting lists implies that one of the reasons for the increase was that GP surgeries closed over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Not only did this not happen - it could not happen. GP surgeries may not have been running routinely over the holiday period, but all GPs are required by their terms of service to provide a 24-hour service for their patients. They do this either themselves or in association with other doctors, through neighbouring practices, co-operatives or deputising services. Quite simply, GPs are not allowed to close.

To blame GPs for the rise in waiting lists, it would be necessary to show that patients were being inappropriately admitted to hospital beds, preventing routine admissions. There has been no suggestion that the patients occupying hospital beds at this time were any less ill or less deserving of hospital treatment.

GPs were also criticised for adding to the workload of casualty departments over the holiday period. This too is a mistaken assumption. A health service that is asked to run at maximum capacity the whole year round will always have difficulties at times of increased demand. It is a testament to all those who work in the NHS that these problems were kept to a minimum.

HAMISH MELDRUM

BMA General Practice Committee

London E14

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