Dr Ben Allen, a GP from Sheffield, told The Yorkshire Post that changes to the way GPs manage demand - such as receptionists being asked to act as a triage service by taking more information from patients before passing them onto the relevant person - have not been properly communicated at a national level.
It comes as Jamie Jenkins, former head of health analysis at the Office for National Statistics, warned GP services are facing a “perfect storm” - with more people seeking treatment after the pandemic, the UK having one of the lowest numbers of GPs per 1,000 people in Europe and there being an ageing population with more complex health needs. He said there had been “a lack of forward planning” for the situation.
Dr Allen said GPs are trying to manage resources carefully but are struggling with demand, while patients are not fully aware of the underlying issues.
“It does feel brutal,” he said. “We are caught between the expectations of patients and the Government about what we can do and the amount of resources we have got.
“We get about £120 per person per year to look after patients which is less than the cost of two A&E trips. This may have been adequate a decade ago but every year people are living longer with more complex medical problems and more medication. The complexity of doing people’s primary care is increasing year on year.
“It is like boiling a frog. There are days when we are having to make decisions to divide our time between all the need there is - do you spend an extra 30 minutes with a few people with mental health difficulties, do you manage some more minor illnesses more quickly over the phone,or do you use it for a home visit?
“Morale is so low. Lots of things have changed as a result of the pandemic and I think General Practice doesn’t really have a mechanism for communication. We have changed the way we are doing things but patients don’t know until they ring up and then they are confused that things aren’t how they used to be.
“GPs are on their knees doing the best job we can but patients don’t understand what is going on behind the scenes.
“Nationally, what are we doing to explain things? Who has told patients about receptionists doing triage? There has not been a narrative from General Practice or from Government and people have been left to fill in the gaps.
“I feel like I am putting my neck on the line and feel a bit vulnerable doing this but if it helps some patients have a better understanding, then it is worth it.
“This has been building for a decade, the pandemic has just accelerated what has been coming for years.
“I think there has been inadequate communication to patients about the changes.”
Recruitment of new GPs at record level
Record numbers of people are training to become GPs, the NHS has said.
In a statement last week issued after a survey for the British Medical Association found 44 per cent of people want more GPs at their local doctor’s surgery, an NHS spokesperson said: “Record numbers of people are now training to become GPs, with up to 4,000 people expected to start this year.
“The NHS has also introduced financial incentives for those who complete their training in more deprived parts of the country as well as investing in a number of schemes to retain and recruit over 6,000 GPs and over 26,000 to the wider general practice workforce.”
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