It’s worth starting this article with a clarification: GPs are an invaluable part of our healthcare system and work incredibly hard to ensure that we, the people who rely on them, get better as fast as possible when we are sick or suffering from another medical problem or issue.
So why is it that statistics from the NHS’s own GP Patient Survey suggest that a quarter of people found it “not very easy” or “not easy at all” to speak to their GP last year. And in the same survey, why did 11% of people said that the receptionists at their GP practice were “not very” helpful or “not at all” helpful.
In addition, 104 GP surgeries shrunk their catchment areas to cut the number of patients last year – a move which was met with some protest from those disenfranchised. And if that weren’t enough, one practice in Halifax sent out letters to 10,000 people warning them not to attempt to book same-day appointments for anything that wasn’t an emergency.
It is perhaps the content of this letter from the surgery in Halifax that gives us an indication of what is being found by GPs across the country: that “GP practices are at breaking point” and are now receiving an “unsustainable number of patients each day”.
Why is this? The answer, according to those in the profession is simple: the UK’s population is growing and ageing, leading to a need for more GPs, more practices and more funding.
The problem for the general public is that in times of austerity, finding the kind of public money required to facilitate an increase in resources is easier said than done.
Alternative primary care givers: the support networkWhile the advice must always be to seek the attention of a GP or attend Accident and Emergency with a problem that is urgent or life-threatening, there are other options open to those with concerns about their health and wellbeing.
The NHS 111 telephone service is specifically geared towards providing non-urgent medical advice and guidance.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, websites such as NHS Choices offer a wealth of information to people, helping them to understand the nature of minor ailments and courses of treatments that can be undertaken with over-the-counter medication.
Another valuable resource for those in need of medical attention is your local pharmacist surgery, although according to a recent YouGov survey only a third of people were aware that community pharmacies were able to provide primary care. Indeed, qualified pharmacists are able to prescribe a broad range of medicines without the involvement of a GP.
Daman Bhamra, Head Pharmacist at Express Pharmacy explains:
“There is tremendous strain currently on GPs and the wider NHS. Rather than criticize government or doctors for the difficulties that patients are facing, our focus is very much on our role as primary care givers and the role we can play in getting people fit and well. Ultimately, that’s what everyone wants to achieve and, as qualified pharmacists, we are in a good position to ease the burden on GPs.”
The online pharmacyMost convenient of all, online pharmacies such as ours at Express Pharmacy combine all the convenience of the Internet with the care and support you would expect from a reputable bricks and mortar community pharmacy.
Daman Bhamra says,
“Our aim is to help patients access appropriate advice, guidance and medication as easily as possible. Our online consultation and prescription system allows those in need to order prescriptions swiftly.
“We recently performed a survey in which 43% of people identified lack of time to collect a prescription as being the major hurdle between them and their medication. However, we can deliver to patients’ doors the very next day if they place an order for special delivery before 2pm.”
Could you be utilizing an online pharmacy and saving time sat in a GP waiting room?