Fury over NHS's 'absolutely ridiculous' guidance to ask GP for permission to exercise this winter

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GPs have slammed ‘absolutely ridiculous’ official guidance which tells patients to contact their family doctor before exercising this winter.

The measure was included in the Government’s ‘Cold weather plan for England’ — which advises Britons on how to keep healthy during the colder months. 

In its ‘main public health messages’ section it bizarrely asked the public to ‘speak to your GP before starting any exercise this winter’.

While acknowledging that exercise is ‘good for you all year round’ and can help you keep warm, the advice states that people should speak to their family doctor before doing so. 

‘If possible, trying to move around at least once an hour, but remember to speak to your GP before starting any exercise plans,’ it reads. 

GP groups condemned the advice today, saying it would only add to the already-stretched workload of family doctors as people called them up for permission to exercise. 

Patient groups also joined the attack, telling MailOnline the prospect of calling up a family doctor before going for a brisk walk was ‘absolute nonsense’. 

GP's have slammed official guidance advising the public to contact their family doctor before starting exercise

GP’s have slammed official guidance advising the public to contact their family doctor before starting exercise

Going for a jog this winter? make sure you speak to your doctor first, according to'ridiculous' advice from NHS England (stock image)

Going for a jog this winter? make sure you speak to your doctor first, according to ‘ridiculous’ advice from NHS England (stock image)

The GP’s assistant will see you now! NHS will hire 1,000 recruits to carry out basic checks and give jabs in bid to free up appointments backlog 

The NHS will recruit more than 1,000 ‘GP assistants’ so family doctors have more time to treat patients this winter. 

They will free-up thousands of appointments by performing administrative tasks and basic health checks previously done by GPs. 

Surgeries can now claim additional funding to take on the extra staff, who are not required to have a medical degree and will earn around £24,000 a year. 

They will receive on-the-job training that allows them to take blood, administer jabs and measure patients’ blood pressure and heart rate. 

Their help is expected to reduce the amount of time doctors spend writing and processing letters by almost half. 

The new recruits will help patients with hospital referrals, explain treatments and act as a middleman with other health and care providers. 

They may also take brief medical histories before patients see their GP. 

Health Secretary Therese Coffey has made improving access to GPs one of her priorities.

Dr John Hughes, head of GP Survival, a campaign group, told Pulse: ‘It’s absolutely typical of the idiocy that comes out of NHS England from people who don’t understand what GPs actually do.

‘Given the fact that people are likely to be trying to keep warm by exercising, there may well be a substantial increase in numbers presenting with this if people actually see this. 

‘It’s absolutely ridiculous.’

Britons are increasingly frustrated over continuing struggles to contact their GP, with thousands complaining they face daily battle to join telephone queues to try and get an appointment. 

Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, another campaign group for senior residents who have repeatedly voiced concerns over lack of GP access in the UK, also criticised the ‘ludicrous’ advice.

‘We want to reserve appointments for people who have a real need for them,’ he said.

‘To suggest that they to talk to their GP before going for a brisk walk is absolute nonsense.’  

England’s cold weather plan is co-written by NHS England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office. 

The line about contacting a GP before exercising has been included in the guidance for the last decade, but has only sprung to attention after the plan was updated this week.

A Government source told MailOnline the guidance was targeted at vulnerable Britons who should be encouraged to get a flu jab, like those with a long-term respiratory condition, rather than the general public.

This is despite it being stuck in a section entitled ‘Main public health messages’.

Some Britons with chronic health conditions who could suffer serious health complications from starting exercise too quickly, like a heart problem, are advised to talk to their GP before trying to get fit.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, told the Daily Mail: ‘With limited workforce and resources GPs simply don’t have the capacity to sign off every patient’s individual exercise plan, particularly when patients are participating in low intensity exercise, as we need to prioritise those patients with increasingly complex health needs who need our expertise.

‘If patients have underlying health conditions and are considering taking up more high intensity exercise routines, we advise them to raise this at their next routine appointment with their appropriate health care professional.’

Dr Richard Van Mellaerts, BMA England GP committee chair, said: ‘This is unhelpful advice that takes no account of the impact on practice workload or the knock-on effect on appointments for patients who are unwell and need seeing if there is an influx of people contacting their practice for advice on their suitability for exercise. 

‘This is especially important over winter when we anticipate demand for all services to be particularly high.

‘This is not work that NHS practices are contracted, resourced or insured to do, and would take GPs away from seeing ill people who need their care most immediately. More broadly, it would be good if organisations spoke to GPs and GP representatives before making public pronouncements like this.’

It comes a week after the latest data showed the proportion of people in England seeing their GP face-to-face rose to its highest level since the start of the pandemic.

Two-thirds of appointments with family doctors in England in August were in-person, according to the latest data from NHS Digital. 

The 66.1 per cent figure is still well below the 80 per cent average before the pandemic struck.

However, it is the highest rate since March 2020, when the UK was plunged into its first national lockdown as Covid swept across the country.

Campaigners and the Government have long-demanded that GPs return to pre-pandemic levels. 

Meanwhile, nearly half of appointments in August lasted less than 10 minutes in some practices — including some in Leicester, Nottingham and Suffolk.

Appointments are supposed to last 10 to 15 minutes, with an NHS review finding that patients feel they are unable to cover their health problems in a shorter timeframe.

It warned that this could lead to patients booking additional appointments, clogging up the availability of family doctors.

Two-thirds of appointments with family doctors in England in August were in-person, according to the latest data from NHS Digital. The 66.1 per cent figure is still well below the 80 per cent average before the pandemic struck. However, it is the highest rate since March 2020, when the UK was plunged into its first national lockdown as the coronavirus swept across the country

Two-thirds of appointments with family doctors in England in August were in-person, according to the latest data from NHS Digital. The 66.1 per cent figure is still well below the 80 per cent average before the pandemic struck. However, it is the highest rate since March 2020, when the UK was plunged into its first national lockdown as the coronavirus swept across the country

Some 48.5 per cent of appointments in August were with family doctors, while the same proportion were with other practice staff, such as nurses. The mode was not logged for three per cent of consultations

Some 48.5 per cent of appointments in August were with family doctors, while the same proportion were with other practice staff, such as nurses. The mode was not logged for three per cent of consultations 

Addressing dissatisfaction with GPs has been one of the key targets of new Health Secretary Therese Coffey.

She said she expects all patients to be offered an appointment within two weeks and the sickest on the same day.

And today NHS England announced it will recruit more than 1,000 ‘GP assistants’ so family doctors have more time to treat patients this winter.

It is hoped they will free-up thousands of appointments by performing administrative tasks and basic health checks previously done by GPs. 

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