If Theresa May’s government gets it’s way, the health and welfare of many of our GPs is about to deteriorate. Last weekend the prime minister announced that all GP surgeries should be open seven days a week between 8am and 8pm. If they fail to comply, she is threatening a reduction to their funding.
What is the reasoning behind this pronouncement?
Officially, it’s to alleviate the current pressure being felt by the Accident and Emergency Departments within our general hospitals. The real reason is more likely to be to divert attention away from the government’s own failure to ease the current crisis within our NHS.
Our GP system is not perfect. We have all experienced delays and frustrations when requesting an appointment. GPs are usually upfront in admitting to their own inadequacy. Many are past the accepted age of retirement but are unable to find someone willing to take on the responsibility of running their practice.
However, why should they become scapegoats for the failure of a government which has ultimate responsibility for running the health service?
Theresa May’s simplistic view is that A&E departments are overwhelmed by patients who cannot get an instant appointment with their own GP. These patients would rather spend hours waiting to see a doctor in an overcrowded casualty department where seriously ill and dying patients should be taking priority.
Isn’t it time we all took responsibility for our actions?
If we spend an evening binge drinking and end up in the casualty department it isn’t the fault of the GPs. If we break a finger nail or have a cough it isn’t normally something that can’t wait a few days. Only rarely is there a need for an immediate medical diagnosis. Most of it is just common sense.
However, that does not seem to feature within the wisdom of Theresa May. She has ignored the lack of trained GPs who would be needed to extend the present surgery hours. She has failed to factor in that many patients scheduled an appointment fail to turn up on the day. She hasn’t accounted for the increase in our elderly population. She hasn’t understood that some patients require more time than the customary ten minute appointment. She neither thought – or cares – about the extra staffing needed to extend the present opening hours, or the effects on those staff and their families.
It has been a complete knee jerk announcement!
The NHS website already advises patients that they should only visit A&E for “life-threatening emergencies” including severe blood loss, unconsciousness and breathing difficulties.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt recently said:
“We have to recognise that society is changing and people do not always know whether the care that they need is urgent or whether it is an emergency, and making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A&E departments.”
However, he was also forced to admit during a House of Commons questions session on health:
“I took my own children to an A&E department at the weekend precisely because I did not want to wait until later on to take them to see a GP.”
It appears some members of our government are infected by a dose of:
‘Don’t do what I do; do what I say!’
Perhaps they should seek treatment from their GP?