More than half of GP practices report ‘deteriorating’ level of service to patients in region
10:46 03 February 2016
More than half of GP practices in the region believe the level of service they are able to provide to patients has “deteriorated” in the last year, a survey has revealed.
Leading doctors in Suffolk last night warned practices are facing growing pressures from patients’ demands, an ageing population, a recruitment crisis and time-consuming bureaucracy.
A study by the British Medical Association (BMA) found that 58.3% of GP practices in East Anglia said the quality of service they were able to deliver to patients had deteriorated over the last 12 months. Some 37.5% said there had been no change and 4.2% said it had improved.
Meanwhile, 56.2% described the workload as unmanageable a lot of the time. Another 11.6% said it was unmanageable all of the time. Some 31.4% said it was generally manageable but too heavy at times.
Paul Driscoll, chairman of the Suffolk GP Federation, said: “The pressure on us to provide the (same) level of care is increasing. We are seeing increasing numbers of patients being directed to us by television campaigns, increasing amount of work being passed back to us from secondary care, increasing amounts of bureaucracy and paperwork, and patients are increasingly demanding about what they want.
“This has been accompanied by decreasing funding in primary care. Most of the increased funding in the NHS is going to secondary care. We have also got workforce issues for an ageing population, with a shortage of people coming in to the profession.
“Practices are now trying to work more in collaboration, while the GP+ scheme is providing up to 300 appointments extra per week in Ipswich, which is easing pressure.”
Recent figures estimate parts of Suffolk and Essex need to increase GP numbers by a third by 2020.
Dr John Havard, a GP based at Saxmundham Health, said: “We are improving the standard of care, with meetings with colleagues in social care and terminal care, but this takes more time just when we have less.
“Standards are rightly improving all the time and the basket of more complex cases is increasing with us caring for patients who used to be seen at the hospital.
“Patients are discharged quicker and follow ups are stopped which adds to our demands, just when there are less GPs wanting to do the job.”
Dr Ian Hume, BMA representative for East Anglia, added: “General practice in East Anglia is struggling. This is the result of rising workload, including increasing patient demand for appointments which is placing unsustainable pressure on GP services starved of resources and staff.
“Politicians have to realise that general practice is currently running on empty. GPs need improved resources and support.”
Health minister Alistair Burt said: “General practice is at the heart of the improvement we want to see in the NHS — which is why we are delivering record investment, with funding for the sector increasing by around 5% every year for the rest of the Parliament, as we commit to 5,000 more doctors in general practice.
“Soon, the Health Secretary will announce further support for GPs, including by reducing bureaucracy.”