GP surgeries at breaking point

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‘GENERAL practice across England is under unprecedented pressure,’ was the BMA’s response yesterday to the news that hundreds of surgeries across the country applied to NHS England in 2014-15 to stop accepting new patients because their services were at breaking point.

Doctors explain that unmanageable workloads and a severe lack of new doctors means that GP surgeries have stopped taking on new patients because they simply cannot cope. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee said: ‘Some practices are having to consider taking the difficult decision to close their practice lists in order to safeguard safe and effective care because they do not have the resources or staff to treat the sheer number of patients coming through their surgery’s door.

‘A recent BMA survey found that more than nine in ten GPs felt their workload is unmanageable and a similar number felt this was negatively impacting on patient care. In this environment, many GPs are buckling under the pressure and stopping or reducing their work due to stress, a situation which is not only deeply upsetting for the individuals involved, but is further diminishing the capacity of GP services.

‘With more than 600 GP trainee posts left vacant in 2015 and a third of the existing workforce considering retirement in the next five years, there are signs this crisis is likely to worsen this year. We need the government to take urgent action to provide GP practices with the resources and support to enable them to treat more patients in a safe and effective way.’

At the beginning of November, 299 surgeries were indicating on the NHS Choices website, which provides patients with information about surgeries in their local area, that they were not taking on new patients. Dr Nagpaul continued: ‘GP services are reaching breaking point as they struggle to cope with rising patient demand, falling resources and a shortage of GPs. Closing their list is the only option to maintain safe care to their local community.’

• A letter has been signed by more than 1,000 NHS staff giving full support to the junior doctors’ strike which begins next Tuesday January 12th. Nurses, healthcare assistants, ambulance workers, porters and other NHS workers write that strike action is ‘the only option’ to protect patients and doctors alike.

The letter titled ‘We stand by the striking junior doctors’, published in The Independent states: ”We – nurses, healthcare assistants, care support workers, allied health professionals, secretaries, paramedics, pharmacists, porters, housekeeping staff, medical scientists and technicians, practitioners and all members of the NHS workforce – want to publicly demonstrate our support for junior doctors during this difficult time.

‘We have seen them day after day, night after night caring for patients with dedication, compassion and unparalleled commitment. We know this because we have been right there by their side, sometimes needing to care for them as well as our patients. We stand by them in solidarity at a time when they feel they have no choice but to take industrial action. We too believe that industrial action is the only option now in order to protect our patients first and foremost from an unsafe contract that will see the junior doctors even more exhausted and demoralised than they already are.’

It concludes: ‘It is time for us now to stand together as healthcare professionals and unite for the sake of our patients, our working conditions and most of all, our precious NHS. We believe in the doctors to do the right thing for our patients now and in the future.’