DAUK is concerned about access to general practice in the UK, and have started a petition calling on the Government to review this as a matter of urgency.
Patients are increasingly struggling to access safe GP care in a timely manner. At the same time GP teams, who are also spearheading the covid (and flu) vaccination programmes are exhausted, overwhelmed and struggling to meet patient demands in the manner they would hope for.
This means patients are increasingly seeking help from 111 and emergency departments, which is heaping undue pressures on the wider NHS.
- The UK Government recognises General Practice as “The bedrock of the NHS”
- General Practice is described in the NHS Forward View as the bedrock of the NHS.
- The NHS five year forward view stated If General Practice fails the NHS fails.
- BMA data 2021 shows concerning facts. Despite political promises of 6000 more GPs by 2024 numbers are pretty stagnant. Between March 2020 and March 2021, the number of older, more experienced, GP partners reduced by 546 doctors. While the number of qualified GPs increased by 1541 (salaried and locum GPs only). In that time, on a FTE basis (37.5 hours per week), the number of fully qualified FTE GPs only increased by 110.7 (to 28,096) over the past year.
- The number of patients per practice is 22% higher than it was in 2015, but the GP workforce has not grown with this demand. As a result of this stasis, there are now just 0.46 fully qualified GPs per 1000 patients in England – down from 0.52 in 2015. · There are clear links between the number of Primary Care Doctors and life expectancy https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/primary-care-really-does-make-you-live-longer-stud
- NHS GPs regularly manage up to 70 patients per day now. The maximum safe recommended level of contacts in a full day is around 25. For UK GPs now the volume of work is simply unsafe for patients, unsustainable, unfair to GPs, and will ultimately result in staff sickness, stress, clinical errors and complaints.
- The NHS was told to go digital first to keep patients and staff safe. This is an ongoing necessity during an evolving pandemic as we enter a new academic year and the Winter season.
- NHS staff are now experiencing unprecedented level of abuse on a daily basis including bomb threats, hate mail, graffiti, verbal and physical attacks. They need protecting from this.
Recent data of 2400 doctors from a BMA survey in July 2021 showed that over a third (37%) of all doctors had experienced abuse in the preceding 3 months. Sadly 96% of these attacks are directed towards reception staff. Two-thirds of GPs (67%) said their experience of abuse, threatening behaviour, or violence had got worse in the last year, and the most common place for abuse experienced by GPs was in their consulting rooms (53%). This is very worrying as GPs are usually working alone.
- A survey of 1250 doctors by the Medical Protection Society in October 2020 also reported high levels of abuse towards staff, with over a third saying they had experienced verbal or physical abuse from patients or relatives.
While these results are very concerning, they may not come as a surprise. General Practice deals with 90% of all NHS contacts – with over 300 million contacts per year (compared to 23 million in Emergency Departments) – so any change in access or service delivery will be most acutely noticed at the GP level.
- Journalists actively seeking examples of poor practice to denigrate the entire profession might be doing more harm than good. In reality, satisfaction with GP services remains remarkably high year on year as evidenced by IPSOS Mori polls. (Overall experience of the GP practice continues to be very positive: 83% said they had a very or fairly good overall experience compared with 82% in 2020)
- There are now over 5 million patients on waiting list for hospital care https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-58186708
- There are possibly already 2 million patients struggling with the effects on long covid who will need GP care going forwards https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-research-shows-2-million-people-may-have-had-long-covid
IN SUMMARY – we call for urgent action to protect and support UK General Practice “the bedrock of the NHS” before it is too late.