'Heartbreaking' staff pressure hitting GP waiting times
PUBLISHED: 09:12 27 August 2014
'THINGS have never been closer to breaking point' for GP services in the area, according to a group of partners from a local practice.
Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre is feeling the heat and having to field more than 1,000 calls a day with doctors regularly working 12-14 hour shifts, according to a statement released on behalf of its staff.
Dr Rachel Mallick, a GP at the centre, said waiting times would increase while the system ‘buckled under the strain’ of an increasingly elderly population, with the current situation ‘not sustainable or safe’.
She said: “Things have never been closer to breaking point in general practice, both here in Somerset and the UK as a whole. There are practices in Somerset where more than half of the GPs are off work with stress.
“I am sure you will be aware of the press coverage of practices closing or on the brink of closure with the threat of mass GP resignation. This is not something we as a profession take lightly, in fact it is heartbreaking.
“In addition there is a national recruitment crisis and we are seeing this in very real terms here in Somerset. Very few medical school graduates want to become a GP anymore and many of those who are GPs are leaving prematurely due to burnout, stress, ill health and low morale.
“We will continue to provide same day care for urgent problems but for routine matters waiting times are likely to increase. This is unavoidable and is not unique to our surgery.”
Burnham and Highbridge town councillor Helen Groves sympathises with the ‘valid’ concerns of the centre staff, and said more must be done to address the issue.
She said: “There is an awful lot more which could be done in support of the services, by making sure any development is in line with what is sustainable and investment is being put in to keep it so. There has been expansion within the services, but not at the same rate as the population is rising locally. If we continue in this way, we would be running into a real crisis.”
Data released in December 2013 revealed 15 per cent of patients nationally had to wait at least a week for a doctor’s appointment, which the Royal College of General Practitioners estimated accounted for 26.2 million patients.