GP shortage leading to long wait times and poor care?

20th August 2019 Clinical Negligence

The government pledged in 2015 to increase the number of GPs in England by 5,000 by 2020. But numbers have actually fallen by 1,000 since then. (Guardian). Surgeries are overstretched and a rising population mean doctors are forced to rush through appointments. This is a worrying situation and brings about concerns regarding patient safety.

A survey of GPs revealed that one in five patients now has to wait at least 15 days to see a GP in England, with some waiting as long as 28 days for an appointment. The Pulse survey, recently published, found more than three in 10 GPs said the average waiting time was between two and three weeks, with only two in 10 saying the average was less than a week. One GP recorded a four- to five-week waiting list.

NHS England do not agree that these figures fit with official statistics however NHS England’s own patient survey found people were finding it increasingly difficult to get a GP appointment.

Delays are frustrating for GPs and patients alike with patient illnesses sometimes getting worse due to delays in receiving appropriate treatment.

At JMW solicitors we regularly receive enquiries and take on cases from people who have been dissatisfied with the care they have received from their GP. Sometimes as a result of a negligent delay in receiving appropriate treatment which leads to a worsening of the patient’s condition which can be devastating for those involved.

It is clear to see that GPs are working at maximum capacity but falling numbers of medics and rising demands on the system is a recipe for disaster particularly as GPs report a rise in the number of those with increasingly complex and chronic conditions where longer and multiple appointments are necessary. The system simply can’t accommodate these demands.

It has been suggested that GPs are overworked and stressed, leading more to exit the profession or reduce their hours, which only exacerbates the problem.

It is true to say that timely care for patients would often avoid illnesses getting worse and distress for patients and ultimately would reduce financial pressures on the NHS. Sadly however despite best efforts of GPs we regularly see cases where the system has failed and people are left in a worse position due to delays.

It is clear that staff levels and investment must be increased to avoid the threat to patient safety.



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Claire Boardman is an Associate Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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