UNSAFE! – GPs condemn addressing 4 health issues in ten minutes

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BIRMINGHAM GP Dr John Cosgrove and 74 fellow GPs have slammed Health Minister Norman Lamb’s call for GPs to explore four personal health concerns in a single appointment.

In a letter to the press yesterday, the GPs said: ‘What Mr Lamb and all our patients desperately need is more GP time.

‘A full-time NHS GP typically has 2,000 patients. To meet the need of these patients, most GPs offer appointments at ten minute intervals. It would be unsafe to attempt to address three or four different health issues in a single appointment as well as other public health tasks, many of which are set by the Department of Health.

‘Furthermore, time spent answering emails will be at the expense of spending time with other patients. As a health minister, Mr Lamb should understand this better than anyone.

‘The share of the NHS budget spent on General Practice has fallen from over 12% four years ago to 8%, while workload has soared. Many GPs routinely work 10-12 hours per day, every hour of which requires constant, focused attention.

‘There is a widespread recruitment and retention crisis and headline-grabbers such as the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, which explicitly provides funding for only one year, will do nothing to remedy this. Sadly, it is our patients who suffer. It is time to Put Patients First and give General Practice the support and resources our patients need.

‘Whilst Mr Lamb may wish to try an email consultation, he should first consider whether this is the best way to deal with what is likely to be a complex matter. He should also consider whether he would like it to be dealt with by a doctor who may already have been working for 12 hours that day.’

Dr Cosgrove, a candidate for chair of the Royal College of GPs, also says that ‘for too long, society and politicians have directed to us whatever issues they cannot solve and then blamed us for outcomes beyond our control’.

Welcoming the GPs’ comments, BMA member Anna Athow warned forcing GPs ‘to work 24/7’ would bankrupt many practices and ‘is a crude attempt by government to force through the end of the traditional self employed GP practice, and push forward a model more attractive to corporate buyers, under the guise of making GPs more accessible.’

Meanwhile, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) chair Professor Terence Stephenson has attacked the government over allowing academies and free schools to opt out of serving healthy lunches to their pupils.

He said that to allow children at academies and free schools ‘to be exposed to unhealthy choices, unhealthy foods and unhealthy diets when there’s still huge concern in this country about obesity’ is ‘a backward step’.

He added if healthy meals ‘is the right policy for children in maintained schools, it’s the right policy for all children. It’s irresponsible to have a two-tier policy on this.’