Getting an appointment at your local GP surgery is becoming increasingly difficult for many patients across the country, owing to a chronic shortage of GPs, who are facing increased workloads and spiralling numbers of consultations. A combination of government cuts and a lack of doctors in many areas – with large numbers of medical students rejecting the possibility of becoming GPs – are creating an increasingly difficult situation for much of Britain, a country with an ageing population.
As a result, more than half of GPs are either ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ going to leave the job before retirement age, according to a ComRes survery of GPs carried out by the BBC in January 2015. What are the consequences of this GP shortage and how are they affecting patients across the UK?
A Summary of the GP Shortage Situation
This crisis is being felt in all parts of the country, with many people now struggling to be seen by their GP at all. In Carlisle, 1 in 3 GP surgeries are experiencing doctor vacancies, leaving 20,000 people without a doctor across that region, according to a BBC Inside Out report. Other surgeries are finding that the demand for appointments is so high that all their appointments slots are being filled within minutes of opening their phone lines. In the West of England region, meanwhile, it is estimated that an extra 25% more GPs are needed in order to keep up with patient demand.
Closures & Out of Hours Services
One of the effects of this is that some surgeries are being forced to close outright due to the GP shortage. For example, the Kington Medical Practice in Herefordshire is now serving all of its 7,900 patients from one surgery, having been forced to close two others due to chronic staff shortages.
As a result, other parts of the NHS are having to step in to provide support to patients. Patients in many regions are becoming increasingly reliant on locums and out-of-hours services in order to receive any support at all.
In some regions, private companies are taking advantage of this situation by offering alternative membership arrangements to patients at certain GP surgeries. This is the case in Bristol, where a private health centre called The Medical is offering a membership scheme to patients, who are able to buy appointments in bulk and then use them when they need to.
Finding Ways out of the Crisis
If you live in the East Berkshire area and you’re having trouble getting an appointment with your GP, there are other options available to you. The East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours service is designed to provide you with support when you’re unable to contact your regular doctor. Open from 6.30pm in the evening until 8am in the morning during weekdays, and all day Saturday and Sunday, EBPCOOH helps to ensure that you have access to medical care when your doctor’s surgery is closed. If you want to find out more, you can visit our website for more details.