This week saw the first substantive policy announcement from the new health secretary, Thérèse Coffey.
On Thursday morning, she shared her ‘Plan for Patients’ that contained a number of initiatives designed to reform healthcare.
One of the measures included was a commitment to patients that they would see a GP within two-weeks if they had non-urgent needs.
Dr Ian Campbell is a GP at Jubilee Park Medical Practice in Carlton and shared his thoughts with Gedling Eye following the plan’s release…
I welcome the Government’s announcement that all patients should be able to have an appointment their GP within 2 weeks – who wouldn’t?
NHS staff used to be able to take pride in the quality of the care they could deliver and the speed within which we could respond to patient need.
It’s why we do the job.
But unfortunately the Government hasn’t the slightest chance of succeeding.
They either know that, in which case they are deceiving the public; or they don’t realise it, because they are completely out of touch with what’s really happening in general practice.
General Practice is under greater pressure than ever before. Increased demand from patients with much more complex medical problems, with a grossly understaffed workforce and poor support from secondary care has created the perfect storm.
The problem pre-dates Covid, but Covid has certainly amplified and highlighted the crisis. We have 2,000 fewer full time GPs now than we had four years ago when the Government promised us 5,000 more.
It’s estimated that another 8,000 GPs will leave or retire in the next eight years.
We have 2,000 fewer full time GPs now than we had four years ago when the Government promised us 5,000 more.
It’s fine to claim we’re training more doctors, but medical student places at University have actually been decreased this academic year! And someone entering medical school now will take more than 10 years to become trained as a GP. And that’s if they wanted to be a GP. Young doctors are voting with their feet, avoiding general practice, preferring hospital roles or leaving for overseas work.
To claim we can offer more appointments for patients by drafting in allied professionals, nurse, pharmacists, physios and so on, is fine, but each one that joins general practice leaves a void somewhere else.
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In short, we have too few health professionals available to meet demand and too little resources to deliver. It’s a bit like asking a builder to build you a smart new home, agree a completion date, and a price, and then tell them there are no windows available, not enough bricks and too few builders to do the work. But you’ll insist on it being built perfectly and on time in any case and blame the builder for not doing the job properly.
This is clearly a problem long in the making, and any solution will need long term and sincere Government commitment to the NHS, with realistic expectations and significant funding to break the cycle of decline we have witnessed.
The alternative is too daunting to consider.
If we don’t have a publicly funded NHS, free at the point of delivery, for everyone, we face a privately funded or insurance based alternative, in a world where only the wealthy can afford to be healthy.
Life expectancy in the UK has actually decreased in the last decade, people are dying younger because of a lack of funding in healthcare, social care and other public services.
It’s down to us to resist this change, to defend our NHS and demand real Government commitment to long term investment in our public services.
Only then do we have a hope of patients, all patients, being able to see their GP within two weeks!