Dr Richard Groden took offence to councillors’ claims that residents couldn’t get appointments, saying staff are working “extremely hard” and the “volume of activity in general practice has hugely increased.”
His comments came after a Labour councillor said her constituents had reported waiting times for face to face appointments are a “disaster.”
Dr Groden said: “I do take offence to the anecdotal comments that councillors have raised. I work closely with practices across the city who are in distress because they can’t recruit doctors.
“There are younger doctors leaving general practice because of the constant GP bashing that has been going on in the press during the period of covid, because of the pressure they are under.”
He said clinical directors had met on Wednesday to discuss GP sustainability. “We have practices regularly asking how do they give their contract back potentially because of the distress that they are under,” he added.
Speaking during a discussion on mental health in primary care services at a meeting of Glasgow’s Integration Joint Board (IJB), Councillor Elaine McDougall, Labour, said: “It’s great to see they are developing all these services but it’s the access to the services that is the problem.
“I hear from a number of my constituents that waiting time, trying to get a face to face appointment with a GP, is a disaster. Some GPs if you say you’ve got a chest infection will refer you to Accident and Emergency.”
Her Labour colleague, Councillor Audrey Dempsey, said: “The GP surgery in my constituency is not seeing anybody, they are not even doing video consultations. They’re asking you to send pictures via email or you can’t get past the triage workers, the receptionists.
“I run a baby and family support service and we have a mental health support befriending service there as well, which is being exhausted with people coming to us as a last resort because they can’t access any mental health services for their kids at the moment.”
In response, Dr Groden said: “My colleagues and I are working extremely hard, the volume of activity in general practice has hugely increased and I think it is really important that people understand the pressure that GPs are under.
“To say that there is no GP access across a ward, I would love to see the evidence for that please.”
Councillor McDougall had asked whether waiting times had increased since the covid pandemic.
Susanne Miller, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) chief officer said service demand has “exceeded” pre-pandemic levels with “particular pressures” on mental health, including “significant increases” in anxiety and eating disorders in young people.
She reported: “We have returned to the pre-pandemic levels of service demand and then exceeded them in both child and adolescent and adult mental health, and we’ve got particular areas of pressure.
“For example, in adult mental health, there is certainly a significant increase in the volume of demand round about assessment for adults who have ADHD potentially.
“And in child and adolescent services there are particular pressures and significant increases in terms of the numbers of young people experiencing anxiety and eating disorders, which go well beyond what the pre-pandemic levels were.”
Ms Miller added GP consultations have “returned and exceeded our pre-pandemic levels in relation to demand.”
She said: “Our GPs are seeing more, not less, people.
“Some of that is virtual consultation, and that is clinically led in terms of the decisions about the best way, which we can see people.”
The board heard about plans to establish ‘wellbeing hubs’. The first three ‘clusters’ will cover 23 general practices, and over 100,000 patients, in: the Dumbarton Road corridor, Springburn and Govanhill and East Pollokshields areas.
Ms Miller said: “There is very clear evidence that with a range of other support services to our colleague GPs, we are much better equipped to meet patient needs immediately and ensure that GP time is properly focused using their skills and experience and expertise.”
She said she appreciates the “pressure” patients feel under but added a “reassurance that we are seeing more, not less, people in primary care” and in mental health services.