Doctors 'don't want to be GPs' as patients struggle to book appointments

The percentage of GP appointments held over the phone or virtually has risen during the coronavirus

GPs are under increased pressure in Suffolk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Suffolk patients might be "frustrated" booking appointments but the increased demand on the service has pushed a lot of doctors out of wanting to do the GP role. 

Saxmundham Health has struggled to fill one of its GP vacancies and just does not have the staff to see the 500+ people trying to book appointments each day. 

Senior partner Dr Havard said Saxmundham Health is aiming to vaccinate the next age group ahead of schedule

Dr John Havard, the senior partner at Saxmundham Health worries no one wants to be a GP. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Dr John Havard, the senior partner at Saxmundham Health, said: "When I first started there were 100s of applicants and every year this is down by half. 

"We are in single digits. Now no one wants to. Being a GP has just become less and less popular." 

Dr Havard explained the role has become grueling work with long hours starting at 8am and not stopping till 9pm every day with less flexibility for home visits. 

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He said: "People think it's old people or a higher population but they forget they have more demand on us. Much more than they used to. 

"They ask for more about medication and there's more choice [along with chronic diseases]."

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He added that unhealthy eating habits leading to diabetes and obesity further put strains on the healthcare system along with GP practices. 

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Archant

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said staff at surgeries face "abuse" which makes staff retention hard at this "critical time". 

He added patients have become "frustrated" and views on local services have become "increasingly polarised".

He said: “People have raised concerns about their access to services, the responsiveness of practices to their requests for treatment and/or advice and dismissive staff attitudes when they are contacting their local surgery.

"However, we continue to observe variations in experiences from practice to practice."

This mixed experience was echoed by patients with over 10 people including Rachel Laws, Pauline Pocknell, Carol Cox, Clive Roper, and Julie Wade praising StowHealth.

Kirsty Ann Smith said: "Me and my family are with StowHealth and they have been fab! Can’t fault them, never have had any issues with them, they’ve always gone above and beyond in their care."

While down the road in the town Combs Ford Surgery had a mixed reception from patients. 

John Brown said: "Combs Ford is a nightmare. You can't get to see your own doctor. The young lad on reception is incredible so nice, helpful and polite."

Ipswich patients have also been increasingly frustrated with Chesterfield Drive, Norwich Road and Deben Road GP practices, which became a super surgery when they merged into Cardinal Medical Practice in July. 

This newspaper highlighted the concern of patients who described how they were turning to A&E instead of the surgery and in August patients started a Facebook group called Cardinal Medical Practice Chaos to keep people updated on the situation. 

Kirsty Youngs felt completely "let down" by the surgery after getting skin cancer and went private. 

She said: "I was supposed to be referred on August 18 for a basal cell carcinoma.

"As I hadn't heard anything after the two weeks, I spent from 11am trying to get through on the phone, finally speaking to the receptionist who said that due to problems with the system, the referral was never sent.

"The receptionist was ever so apologetic, of course, it wasn’t her fault. I’m lucky in that basal cell carcinoma’s are not a particularly dangerous cancer nor life-threatening cancer. But it makes you wonder how many more Two-week wait referral have not been sent because of ‘system problems’."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the Covid-19 backlog is a priority.

They added: “The government has worked extensively with the NHS on how we tackle the backlog caused by the global pandemic, and we have invested £270million to expand GP capacity, on top of £1.5billion for extra staff committed for general practices until 2023/24.

“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of GPs and their teams, appointment numbers have returned to pre-pandemic levels, with GPs delivering more than 330 million appointments in the last year."

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