Original article by Clare Foges of The Times
We have pulled together a synopsis of the articles Clare Foges has written for the times below…some interesting points to consider for the future of primary care
One the one side are exhausted, abused covid-worn doctors and on the other are patients who have not seen their GP for more than 18 months with face to face appointments still only at 57% down from 80% pre-pandemic.
Clare recounts stories of patients who have been overlooked during the pandemic including one of an elderly gentleman given antibiotics for a infection. After a few weeks of it not clearing up he begged for a face 2 face appointment, eventually he was seen but by then the site was biopsied and the lesion was cancerous and inoperable. She asks how many warning signs have been missed, examinations skipped and cancers spread as surgeries have insisted on strict covid rules.
She points to the demonisation of GPs characterised as workshy, greedy, snowflakey types who would rather be off practising their golf swing, whilst part-timers have the audacity to want to spend time raising their children as well as working.
She talks about the blame game being not very clear cut and the Tony Blair government making a mess of the 2003 GP contract which meant GPs were paid to have GPs on their books rather than for treating them as well as the number of part-time GPs not helping the situation as well as GP surgeries carrying on with remote consultations whilst the rest of society gets back to normal.
She talks about characterising GPs as lazy being unfair as there are just not enough of them and points to the fact that the total number of full-time GPs has gone down while the number of patients seeking help has climbed up and up. One GP has characterised it as having “a tsunami of patients coming to us” and recounts the multiple roles GPs now have to adopt including therapist, nutritionist, motivational speakers, sexual health advisers, cares and confidants for the elderly. Along with this one Doctor talks about the unrealistic expectations of patients, in the era of Amazon prime we want everything now and no-one is prepared to wait anymore.
She thinks Primary Care needs a shake up and blames the overgenerous GP contract, lack of full-time doctors, amazon era impatience and the lack of willingness to help ourselves.
- Large walk in primary care centres in every town and district a mid-point between a surgery and a hospital where vital signs could be checked, prescriptions written and worst-case fears allayed without the hassle of booking an appointment
- Within these centres would be a new distinct mental health service offering the desperate an anxious immediate help
- Create a health visitors for the elderly and over 75s offering a drop in clinic a few times a week, medial exams where needed and help co-iodinating welfare benefits and prescription requests for their home
- A long running campaign across all media to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health encouraging eating healthy, exercising and questioning whether a doctors help is really needed or would waiting it out after a few paracetamol suffice?
She concludes by adding how Covid has exposed the precariousness of our Primary Care system and how the government must aim for something better that is more attuned to our impatient times.