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GP Access 7-Days per Week – Unrealistic?

by in News, Political

number 7Jeremy Hunt was speaking on the Jeremy Vine Show today about how patients will be able to access their GP 7-days a week by 2020 under the existing government. He also stated that each patient should see their own GP, not ‘any’ GP even though Jeremy Vine as a patient commented that surely it would be quicker to see any GP.

Let me be clear: the existing set-up is no longer fit for purpose, however you cannot increase demand without working with Practices and improving systems (that are currently dated). Each Practice is unique and unfortunately will be left high and dry without support and a smarter, possibly more generically modelled system in place.

It is damaging for the government to use issues raised by uninformed Joe Public to get votes when it is essentially setting GPs up to fail.

Hospitals are closing, sign-posting is at its worse and PR is non-existent. Patients argue that seeing their choice of GP supersedes seeing any available clinician even in an emergency, and when the issue is not ongoing or chronic. Home visits, paperwork, increasing the rapidly reducing income demonstrate a few of the hoops that are gymnastically hurdled by GPs and their teams on a daily basis.

Patients matter. GPs care. The 2 must be brought together and throwing money around without reducing the slack (in the absence of more time being made available) is not going to win over this declining relationship.

Let’s be constructive here and provide a solution: Lose some of the pressure from GPs where there is no local A&E, get rid of the worthless paperwork exercises and projects where there is no patient benefit, fund practices realistically based on their staffing levels, local deprivation and demographic and improve national PR and campaigns, and lastly improve technology. So much time is wasted in Primary Care and until systems are more efficient the demand must not increase. The new model super car cannot reach its potential with the engine of a 1980’s banger racer.

Expectations have changed, those patients working away or working longer hours do need better access to a clinician, but don’t make promises that will (not could) destroy our NHS.

Let’s share with the public the reasons why receptionists question in the way they do, let’s involve patients in the demand problems and get their support. Let us also celebrate and truly recognise the efforts of General Practice staff.

In the article (link below) Jeremy Hunt says “Part of what we have to do is send out a message that we really are backing GPs. They are a vital part of our NHS and we want to encourage people to apply and take up those training places”. How are you backing GPs Jeremy? You are telling GPs what will happen when in reality fully qualified and currently working Practitioners are leaving the NHS because they can no longer keep up with the demands of the government. Messages are mixed and in fact if patients could see any GP (a point that forms part of other Department of Health initiatives anyway such as triaging and the introduction of rapid access clinics), it would be better for patients.

Let’s also look at the bigger picture including insurance companies and the constant injury claims of patients, and what about those patients who still insist on turning up at their surgery with a runny nose or nausea that has been in situ for less than a day? What about penalising GPs for referring and prescribing without telling patients of these facts? What about Fit for Work statements?

I hope other politicians read this and use it to develop a more robust plan that works for patients and Primary Care staff, maybe they would even consider speaking to a few GPs….. but I don’t want to be too ‘out there’ with my aspirations.

The National Health Service belongs to everyone – we are all patients and in the majority tax payers; at the current rate GPs and Primary Care staff will need more medical help than anyone by 2020.


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Abigail Tester

Abigail Tester

GP Practice Manager in Buckinghamshire

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