You will have no doubt seen reports in the national press about changes to general practice appointments and access. Unfortunately these reports have misrepresented the current state of general practice and proposed changes and we, as the representative body of Derbyshire general practice, would like to clarify things.
General practice in Derbyshire has been open throughout the pandemic; providing patient care whilst delivering the largest scale vaccination programme in history. Our teams have followed NHS England protocols; moving overnight to use virtual consultations and triage. They have safely opened up more services as national guidance and the intensity of the pandemic allowed. During the entire pandemic, clinicians have continued to see patients face-to-face when clinically needed; always making sure that infection control and social distancing measures were in place to protect patients and staff alike.
The latest GP appointment figures (www.digital.nhs.uk – Appointments in General Practice March 2021) in England showed that practices delivered almost 5 million more appointments in March than they did the month before, and nearly 3 million more than they did in the same month two years ago, long before the onset of the pandemic. Simply put general practice is working flat out. With this increasing patient demand, general practice will continue to work smartly to get the balance right; consulting with patients in the most appropriate fashion in as timely a manner as is possible. This means, as per the practice contract with NHS England, that it is for the surgery to determine the manner in which it sees its patients. Only by doing this can we ensure quality care is maintained for the many, rather than servicing the demands of the few.
We know it is hard to get an appointment right now. But the above figures explain that this reflects the large number of patients requesting care, not lack of activity within general practice. We are hearing increasing reports of frustration and abuse targeted at practice staff because of delays, and we are concerned that the recent media reporting will worsen this by fuelling inappropriate requests for face-to-face appointments that are not needed and cannot safely be accommodated. We would ask you all to treat each member of the practice team with respect and understanding; we will continue to support our practices and help them to take a zero tolerance approach to any forms of abuse.
We thank you for your patience and continuing to work with your surgery.
Dr Kathryn Markus