Did you know that on average GP Practices in England are providing over 4 million appointments each month? This is an increase of over 700,000 per month compared to before the pandemic.
The overall number of GPs has reduced since 2015, whilst at the same time the population of the UK has increased from 65m to 68m people. This means that today the same number of GPs have responsibility for the health needs of an additional 3 million patients.
This is reflected here at Shore with requests for GP consultations increasing by 50% since before the Covid-19 pandemic. On average we now provide 239 Sessions per week of GP time (a session being a nominal half day) compared with 221 in 2019.
Additionally, in light of the national GP shortage we have increased our wider clinical team to include Paramedics, Physiotherapists, Nurse Practitioners, Mental Health practitioners and Pharmacists. These roles provide additional capacity for our patients as well as relevant expertise.
Online consultations may not be for everyone, but they do provide more flexibility in how patients contact their surgery and how Doctors can manage demand. Shore Medical on average previously handled 2500 “e-Consults” per month between January and March 2021 – this has also risen dramatically recently to over 12,000 per month. Since July we have also now switched back to more face to face appointments as a first option rather than following a telephone call.
We are also trying to recruit more GPs and have a new Doctor who started with us in November. Recruitment of Doctors is incredibly hard as there are simply not enough coming through the system after training. In 2015 the NHS was assured that the government would recruit an extra 5000 GPs. In 2018 this promise was raised to 7000 extra GPs but the reality is that since 2015 there are now 2000 fewer GPs in England due to retirements and simple burn out of existing Doctors who feel they can no longer work the 60 hours plus week in week out that is required.
All of this puts pressure on systems throughout the Practices, the extra appointment demand and use of online consultation has led to a 200% increase at times in telephone calls. Wait times have increased and this is just as frustrating for our staff as it is for patients. The challenges are significant, and our teams are working incredibly hard at a time of unprecedented demand. So please remember to be understanding and recognise our staff are doing what they can to support the best care for our patients.
The NHS does require protection, by Governments, but also by its patients. Before contacting your surgery, ask yourself – do I need to? Is it something minor that I could speak about with my Pharmacist? Have I checked NHS online for help? Could I send an e-Consult request instead of using the phone? Have I checked the Practice Website which may provide an update on vaccinations and other useful information?
We understand that a person’s health is their most important commodity and all our staff work in this profession because they want to help. But we cannot do it without the support of our patients.
All the staff at Shore Medical would like to thank our patients for their continued support and patience in a time that has been difficult for all.