The shocking state of the NHS is exposed today in a report revealing one-in-four wanting to see their GP failed to get an appointment in one month. Government recovery plans for the ailing health service will fail without urgent action to address staff shortages, experts warn.
Dennis Reed, from over-60s campaigners Silver Voices, claimed primary care was in “meltdown”and unable to provide adequate care:
“It is shocking that almost a quarter of all adults who needed to see a GP…have been unable. This represents thousands of ill or very ill people, many of them senior citizens, who have had to turn to self-diagnosis or in desperation to Accident and Emergency. The state is failing in its prime responsibility to provide safe and secure medical care.”
GPs delivered 27.1 million consultations last month – 68 percent face-to-face – but rising demand and falling doctor totals left too many patients struggling to access help.
The problem was laid bare by analysis from the Office for National Statistics, which surveyed more than 4,700 households in the month to December 18. One in four people had wanted an appointment with a GP but 23 percent of those failed to get one; 39 percent were offered a phone consultation instead.
Just under a third had trouble contacting a practice and 37 percent felt the wait to be seen was too long.
The number of permanent GPs in England has fallen year-on-year for seven consecutive months: there were 26,706 excluding those in training and locums, down from 27,064.
Research commissioned by the Lib Dems has suggested people were turning to DIY medical care or going without if they could not see a GP.
It found 29 percent of the 2,000 asked had failed to get a face-to-face appointment in the last 12 months.
Of those, almost a third gave up, a quarter bought medication online or at a pharmacy while 16 percent carried out treatment themselves or asked someone else. A fifth said they went to accident and emergency, suggesting problems with GP access were increasing strain on overwhelmed emergency services.
Saoirse Mallorie, a senior analyst at The King’s Fund think-tank, said difficulty in securing appointments reflected unprecedented demand “and too few staff to meet that”.
Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled a two-year plan to get NHS emergency care on track after a dire winter when delays may have caused thousands of unnecessary deaths.
The Prime Minister promised thousands more permanent hospital beds, hundreds of extra ambulances and a big expansion of virtual wards, where patients are monitored at home. The NHS is also developing a long-term workforce plan. But health experts warned that the success of recovery measures would depend on chronic staff shortages being addressed.
Saffron Cordery, interim head of NHS Providers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All eyes will look forward to the Budget now to see whether…the Government is going to announce the fully funded and costed workforce plan for the long term, that we’ve been asking for for a very long time.Without the workforce, however much capacity we put in place we can’t actually safely staff it.”
Professor Phil Banfield, chairman of the British Medical Association council, said it was “laughable that with 133,446 vacancies across the NHS, the Government still hasn’t addressed the workforce crisis.
“They may be able to source more ambulances, but who is going to staff them?”
Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Retention is a big part of this – you can recruit as many junior nurses and doctors as you’d like, but if you haven’t got the senior people to look after them and develop them, it’s actually quite difficult to get much out of them.”
The ONS research also revealed one in five people were waiting for an NHS hospital appointment, test or treatment. Almost three quarters of those queueing for treatment said it had a negative impact. Of those in work, two fifths said their jobs were hit. More than a third cut their hours and seven per cent were on long-term sick leave.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Long waits could lead to the health of thousands of patients declining to the point where treatment may become ineffective when they finally reach the front of the queue.”
The survey also showed how the cost-of-living crisis was adding to winter woes: almost a quarter of adults said they were occasionally, hardly ever or never able to keep their homes comfortably warm in the previous fortnight.
People on prepayment or top-up meters or who had depression were more likely to struggle. One in seven worried their food would run out before they could afford more while 18 percent ate less.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are improving access to general practice with almost 90,000 more appointments every working day of 2022. The number of doctors in general practice has risen by almost 500 in 2022. We remain committed to offering patients urgent appointments the same day.”
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.