Monday, January 18, 2016

Soaring numbers struggling with GP opening hours: The joys of socialized medicine. All the help the government wishes to give you. The willful ignorance of the Bernie Sanders types.

Soaring numbers struggling with GP opening hours 

New research shows a steep increase in the number of patients who say GP opening hours are inconvenient, with some surgeries closing their doors for three hours at lunch, or closing for full afternoons 

The survey shows shows creeping dissatisfaction across the country about access to GPs at evenings and weekends
The survey shows shows creeping dissatisfaction across the country about access to GPs at evenings and weekends  Photo: ALAMY
More than ten million patients a year are struggling to get a GP appointment - with record numbers waiting more than a week, national research has found. 
NHS statistics show that the proportion of people who are unhappy with the opening times of their local practice has risen by one fifth in three years, amid pleas from patients for seven day opening. 
Family doctors last night said they are overwhelmed by growing demand, and increasingly unable to provide safe levels of service. 
But some of the least popular GP practices were found to be closing for up to three and a half hours at lunchtime, as well as closing their doors for full afternoons and weekends. 
Patients’ groups said an increasing reliance on female GPs, often working limited hours, meant some surgeries were offering an increasingly “part-time service”. 
The mass survey of almost 1 million patients shows a sharp increase in the numbers facing long waits to see a GP. 
In three years, the numbers waiting at least a week to see a GP rose by almost one third. 
The figures also show increasing numbers of patients unable to get an appointment at all, and a rise in the number who say they were forced to do battle with unhelpful receptionists. 
Unions have repeatedly objected to the plans, claiming that letting patients see doctors outside regular hours is “wasteful” and claimed there is little demand from patients to access care at weekends. 
The new research suggests the public is increasingly dissatisfied with access to GPs, amid growing waiting times. 
GPs say a system of checks on them is "a waste of time" The Royal College of GPs says doctors are so overstretched that it is becoming unsafe  Photo: ALAMY
The report shows: 
• In total, 18.7 per cent of patients said their surgery was not open at convenient times – a rise from 16 per cent in 2012 - equivalent to an increase from 8.5m to 10.2m patients; 
• 18.1 per cent of patients waited a week or more to see someone – a rise from 13.8 per cent in three years; 
• 25.8 per cent said it was difficult to get through on the phone – a rise from 19.9 per cent over the same period; 
Almost three quarters of patients who were unhappy with surgery hours said they would have been helped by Saturday opening, with almost as many pleading for access to GPs in the evenings. 
"In the last three years millions more patients have become unhappy with the opening hours of their local practice" 
Heidi Alexander, shadow health secretary 
And nearly two in five such patients said access to their practice on a Sunday would have made it easier for them to see a GP. 
The research also found increasing numbers unable to get an appointment at all, rising from 9.6 per cent in 2012 to 11 per cent, while 10.8 per cent said GP receptionists had been “unhelpful” – up from 9.5 per cent in 2012. 
Dr Maureen Baker, Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said family doctors were working harder than ever to meet increasing demand from a growing and ageing population, but did not have enough resources to do so. 
She said: “Our service now receives just over eight per cent of the overall health service budget – despite making 90 per cent of all NHS patient contacts, and our work becoming greater in both volume and complexity. This is not safe for us, and it is not safe for our patients.” 

She said that prioritising extended opening hours could mean cutbacks to GP services during routine hours, which might leave patients worse off. 
“Many practices are already offering extended opening hours but for the majority, with current resources, seven day opening remains an aspiration,” Dr Baker said. 
At Lozells Medical Practice, Birmingham, 58 per cent of patients thought opening hours were inconvenient. Its surgery is closed from 1pm to 4.30pm every day, as well as on Thursday afternoons and all weekend. 
St Mary’s Island Surgery, in Chatham, Kent, closes its surgery every Monday and Friday afternoon, all weekend and from 1pm to 4pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 
Almost half of its patients said such access was not convenient, the report shows. 
Joyce Robin, from Patient Concern, said the situation had become “hopeless”. 
She said the rise of female GPs - who now outnumber their male counterparts, meant that increasing numbers of practices were running a “part-time service”. 
"The situation has become ridiculous – it is dire" 
Joyce Robin, Patient Concern 
Ms Robin said: “The situation has become ridiculous – it is dire. When you have got surgeries closed for these sorts of periods, you haven’t really got a GP service in place, it’s just a part-time operation.” 
“One of the issues is the increasing reliance on female GPs, often working a couple of mornings or afternoons a week,” she said. “That can leave major gaps in services because there simply aren’t enough doctors to go round.” 
Heidi Alexander, shadow health secretary accused the Government of making “empty promises” in its pledges to introduce seven-day access to GPs. 
She said: “Two elections ago, David Cameron promised to open GP surgeries seven days a week. But these figures show that in the last three years millions more patients have become unhappy with the opening hours of their local practice. Under the Tories patients are finding it harder to access the NHS five-days a week, let alone seven.” 
"Many patients cannot even get through to their GP surgery to book an appointment" 
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association 
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “These figures confirm what we regularly hear on our national helpline from patients who are struggling to access the primary care services they need. Many patients cannot even get through to their GP surgery to book an appointment. Patients have found that there are either no appointments left for the day, or any remaining appointment times are difficult for them.” 
Dr Arvind Madan, director of primary care for NHS England, said: “The GP Patient Survey shows patients appreciate the fantastic job GPs and the wider primary care work force are doing in challenging times. The findings also reinforce the case for investing in and strengthening primary care, exactly as we are now doing.” 

The GP practices where patients struggle to gain access: 

Surgery hours and the percentage of patients who say they are inconvenient 
• Lozells Medical Practice, Birmingham: Opens 10am, closes from 1pm to 4.30pm every day, Thursday afternoons and all weekend: 58 per cent. 
• The Bridge House Medical Practice, North London, closes from 12 to 2pm every day, and all weekend 
• Highlands Practice, North London, closed Thursday afternoons and all weekend: 48 per cent. 
• St Mary’s Island Surgery, Chatham, Kent, closed Monday and Friday afternoons, 1pm to 4pm Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays and all weekends: 47 per cent. 
• Highbury Grange, North London: Closes from 1pm to 3pm every day, plus every Wednesday afternoon and all weekend: 45 per cent 
Source: GP websites and GP Patient Survey 2016

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