You may have noticed when you were last in your local GP surgery that there are leaflets available published by the BMA asking for you to support and help to improve the services offered. We have all heard the media reports that GPs are under pressure and some surgeries are even facing closures. Scaremongering in the press regarding the length of time it can take to get an appointment is prevalent, and then there are stories of people getting a consultation not having enough time or access to some treatments.
Today Mature Times spoke to Dr Richard Vautrey who is deputy Chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee and he has emphasised how important it is for patients to support their local doctors. The three main areas of concern are:
- The reduction of funding by the government towards General Practice.
The share of the NHS budget has been reduced from 10.5% to 7.5% recently, which means that they have lost a quarter of the money allocated to the running of local surgeries. This is a cut in funding for the fabric of the actual buildings, supply of nurses and practice staff and equipment and services.
- A shortage of doctors.
The lack of new young doctors taking up General Practice and the early retirement of existing GPs, who are disillusioned with the job, means that recruiting doctors is a serious problem for many practices. Newly qualified medical graduates are not choosing to work in general practice but working in hospitals, where they may earn more money, or moving abroad to take up more lucrative employment in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Here they also have a far better work life balance than in UK where they can be expected to work up to 14 hour days.
- Lack of a sense of worth and value.
There is a serious lack of morale among GPs and they feel under pressure from their patients and the government. The recent “doctor bashing” in much of the media is lowering confidence and esteem and disturbing the balance of trust between doctors and patients.
The simplest way we, as consumers of GP services, can help is to go to our local surgery, and pledge our support. Pick up a leaflet and join the campaign. Follow the list on the back of the leaflet, and quite simply tell your GP and the surgery staff that you appreciate what they do.
We can also contact our Member of Parliament and ask them to put pressure on the government to review funding and support for local services.
The question of recruitment of new doctors is urgently being addressed and the BMA is going into Medical Schools and inviting new recruits to train as GPs and come and work in local surgeries. The glamorous life of a hospital consultant is not all it appears to be and doctors need to be shown how rewarding it can be working in communities and becoming a ‘family doctor’ with the status that used to be attached to this role. Those that do spend time working in this environment usually chose the career of a GP but have to be pointed in the right direction.
The supply our GP services is also being put under pressure by various other government strictures such as the threat of closure or withdrawal of support for “failing“ practices. Criticism for over prescribing antibiotics, not identifying cancer early enough, and frequency of referrals to the Accident & Emergency services, are common complaints levelled at them.
Too often GP services are becoming the whipping boy for NHS problems and according to Dr Vautrey “taking a constant battering” from all sides. Dr Vautrey is an ardent campaigner for GPs and achieving recognition for the work they do on behalf of their patients and communities. His rally call has been heard at many conferences and seminars over the years and he comments:
“General practice as a whole is being stretched to breaking point by rising patient demand, falling funding and a political drive to divert care from hospitals to community settings without, at the same time, transferring the resources to make delivery sustainable. Ultimately though, NHS England has got to start backing general practice with the tools that will enable them to work in ways that will help GPs overcome the rising demands facing the NHS.”
If you value your GP and the services provided by the local practice please support the “Your GP Cares” campaign. Pick up a leaflet and contact the relevant authority to express your views. Share your experiences, put pressure on your local MP and promote the crusade for that part of the NHS that is usually the first point of call for non-emergency healthcare.
More importantly tell your doctor how much you appreciate him or her and thank your local surgery for what they do in such challenging circumstances.
by Tina Foster