The Shepwayvox team spoke to three GPs from across the district and each of them said they and their colleagues were already “”seeing too many patients a day to be safe.”
Getting a GP appointment was your number one concern and more people emailed us about this one subject than any other.
GP Surgeries across Shepway and beyond have been struggling to keep waiting times down during the busy winter period, with some patients waiting two or three weeks for an appointment. And when one does get an appointment, the amount of time given has been reduced so that “we can get more through the doors and reduce the waiting times. The Prime Minster has now floated the idea that if we don’t give patients the appointment times they want, GP Practices will face funding cuts, which will only make things worse.”
The chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard has said waiting times could rise to three or four weeks and such delays may cause non-urgent conditions to become acute problems. Dr Stokes – Lampard, and the three GP’s we have spoken to are “profoundly concerned” about how general practice would cope over winter when there is allegedly a higher demand for NHS Services.
There are 114,459 patients registered at the 18 Surgeries in Shepway, according to the latest NHS figures published in Jan 2017. Central Surgery having the fewest number of patients. Dr Findlay & Partners at the top of Sandgate Hill have the greatest number of patients with 11,453.
We have spoken to three local doctors who asked for their names not to be mentioned. We asked them if patients with non-urgent needs would be forced to wait weeks to see their GP. “Most Certainly. It’s already taking some patients two to three weeks to get in to see a GP for non-urgent stuff, so by the time three to four weeks has passed, the non-urgent stuff may be becoming urgent.”
The three GP’s all mentioned a “chronic shortage of GPs” and “a crisis in recruitment and a reliance in some surgeries on locums.” All of them raised the issue of safety and said that the demand on general practice across the district is increasing and “the resources and workforce available to us are so lacking that individual GPs are currently seeing too many patients a day to be safe. And then at the end of a long day in clinic, we still have a mountain of paperwork to get through.”
This rightly concerned us and alarmed the GP’s themselves, but that’s how it is. It is not just here in Shepway these concerns have been raised.
Just a year ago (Feb 2016) GP’s were saying the quality of the service they provide had deteriorated in the last year.
A year on a little it seems has changed. You the patients are right to be concerned, as are the three GPs who have flagged up this issues. So what can be done?
The obvious solution is throw more money at the problem. However, that alone won’t solve the ongoing issue. So what is the answer? We don’t know nor did the three GPs we spoke to. With 44 GPs looking after 114,459 people in Shepway area and many set to retire over the next five years, we have to think about how we use GPs’ time.
The three GP’s all said “all GP Practices across the district are doing all they can to attract new GPs to the area but for many reasons GPs did not want to come here.” Again the GPs didn’t know why that was.
We like they do not know the answer. All we do know is that GPs are very concerned. Their workloads have increased, their patient time has decreased and are currently seeing too many patients a day to be safe.The GP system is working close to capacity most of the time, so a small bump in demand can cause a significant problem. We like you, when trying to book an appointment get frustrated as the phone is more often than not engaged.
Our overstretched GPs are trying to do their best, but as we said earlier, the Prime Minster Theresa May announcing GP surgeries will be forced to give patients appointments when they want or face funding cuts, this we believe, will not help.
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