Senior GPs have called for a national inquiry after new complaints that patients are heading to emergency departments because they cannot get appointments.
GPs say they have been working harder than ever before – but are now facing “unprecedented levels of burnout.” The Doctors’ Association has written to health secretary Matt Hancock, senior NHS officials and HealthWatch chair Sir Robert Francis. The concerns surfaced after the publication of the latest emergency department data, showing the largest numbers in a year using hospital emergency services in March. Emergency specialists attribute the increase to the easing of lockdown – but have also warned it will be unsustainable.
In the letter, two GPs Dr Elizabeth Toberty and Dr Ellen Welch state: “General Practice has been consistently underfunded over the last 10 years. Currently 90% of NHS contacts happen within primary care for less than 10% of the total budget. We desperately need a huge funding increase to aid much needed innovation, improvements in IT and infrastructure, and to increase staffing levels. We urgently call today for a reduction in bureaucracy, a focus on GP burnout and staff retention, and most importantly an analysis into why patients are struggling to access care so we can work towards finding a solution that involves the whole health service working together.”
They add: “GPs are working flat out, and it is incredibly demoralising to find that our best is not enough. It is clearly not acceptable for huge proportions of patients to attend emergency departments when GP would be more appropriate. However, practices are working at and beyond full capacity which has led to unprecedented levels of burnout, sick leave and tiredness amongst GPs.”