SURGERIES are in such crisis that one in six GPs have cancelled all routine appointments at some point over the last year, seeing emergency appointments only!
Receptionists at some GP surgeries were telling patients that they would have to wait at least four weeks for a routine appointment. Other GP surgeries decided that as they have had no routine appointments available for four weeks, they were to see urgent appointments only.
These are the results of a survey of almost 800 GPs by medical magazine Pulse. GPs have said that they have had to resort to attempting to assess patients over the telephone and decide whether a patient is an urgent or a non-urgent case.
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘This is further evidence of the pressures practices are under, with growing demands for appointments not being matched with an ability to provide them due to the continuing recruitment and retention crisis in general practice.
‘Over recent years, the number of consultations has been steadily rising while the GP workforce has been declining. Surgeries are now left in the position where telephone triage is the only method by which staff are able to handle this demand in a safe manner – but this can result in increased stress for many GPs as they try to manage so many patients each day.’
He added: ‘Patient empowerment, better education on public health issues and effective use of social prescribing may go some way to ease demand on general practice. What is urgently needed is proper investment and support from government to solve the workforce crisis.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘GPs up and down the country are fighting fires, delivering care to patients with urgent health needs – but this often means patients whose problems aren’t necessarily urgent are having to wait longer and longer.
‘Our concern is that a problem might not be urgent initially, but becomes urgent further down the line if it isn’t dealt with – GPs want to identify and treat problems early, so that it doesn’t come to that.’