The public perception of access to GP services is already at an all-time low and as such this is having a devastating impact on our health service. In a recent analysis by the Royal College of GPs, this perception and now ‘fact’, is set only to worsen over the next five years. That is unless the actions promised within the GP Forward View begin to become a reality.
In 2015/2016 there were 9 million occasions when patients tried to access GP services and could not, but did not seek healthcare from an alternative provider. Whilst it can be safe to assume that not all of those patients would have required further intervention and follow-up, an ageing population means that a large proportion of them would have needed to have been seen. It is widely acknowledged that there is more risk of harm to patients within the system than ever before.
When patients do seek to access alternative health care providers, then this is often through 111 and more inappropriately via A&E. This just compounds the financial crisis and pressure on the system further, as bottlenecks develop in places that they shouldn’t and patients face referrals and investigations that they do not always need. This is unnecessary demand and waste on expensive services!
Why is it so difficult for the government to recognise, that by investing the finance and resource at the front door of the health service, this will ease the pressure at the back door? It doesn’t work if you do it the other way round ! Yes, patients need to be seen and cared for in the community, but they also need services they can access easily and they also need to feel supported enough so as to avoid going to hospital, unless it actually is an accident or an emergency.
The fact that Primary Care receives only 8% of the total budget assigned to the NHS in the face of so much reform is ludicrous. A new Prime Minister and a major cabinet reshuffle gave hope to many GPs that the inequality between primary and secondary care resource and funding would be addressed. These hopes were dashed when news was released that despite the cabinet reshuffle, Jeremy Hunt remains the Health Secretary. One can only hope that the new Prime Minister therefore honours the pledge and promises that David Cameron made, and funding increases significantly, giving primary care a chance of long term survival.
If not, then the RCGP’s analysis goes on to conclude that of the reported 69 million occasions whereby patients had to wait more than 7 days for an appointment in 2015/2016, is likely to rise to 98 million occasions by 2020/2021. GPs and patients around the country are being ‘called to arms’ to ensure that this situation is not allowed to escalate to the figures being forecast. The impact of doing nothing risks health care across the whole of England. And let’s face it, our poor GP receptionists take a hard enough hit as it is when patients can’t access our services, and they become branded the dragon on the other end of the phone.