The NHS is under immense pressure at the moment and we cannot continue to provide safe care and a limitless service in General Practice.
Whilst we have always had days when urgent demand is much higher than the capacity of our Doctors and Nurses, in the last couple of months, demand has exceeded capacity daily.
We plan for safe care. Safe care for us means that the Duty Doctor – whose job it is to manage all of the demand for same day medical appointments – should have up to 40 patients in a day. This is one patient every 15 minutes from 8am to 6.30pm (not allowing for any breaks or all of the other things link signing repeat prescriptions, reviewing test results, writing sick notes etc).
In the last 2 months, rather than this safe number of (40 patients or less) the average has been 78 patients every day. In fact on 6 days there has been over 100 urgent patients for the Urgent GP. This is less that 5 minutes per patient. This is not safe.
So, as we have to ensure we provide a safe service to patients, we need to set a daily limit on how many patients we can book for urgent appointments.
From now on, if the number of calls we get are unsafe, we will ask patients to contact other parts of the NHS whose role it is to provide urgent help. We will advertise this on our social media, and on the phone line.
If our patients can use our urgent capacity carefully, we hope that we will have enough urgent appointments. This means:
– Not asking for an appointment that day if your problem is not medically urgent – most things can and should wait for the next routine GP appointment with your own GP (4-6 week wait)
– Using the HandiApp, www.nhs.uk, pharmacies and 111 for minor illness and how to manage this at home. A huge amount of the extra demand we have had in recent weeks is patients calling in the first few days of minor illness, which actually, most of the time, can be treated successfully at home until the normal period of symptoms passes. For example it is normal for a cough and cold to last for three weeks. All of these calls for these self-limiting symptoms means that we can’t provide a safe service to the patients who do develop more severe symptoms or have serious medically urgent problems.
– Making sure you order your repeat medications with plenty of time before your current supply runs out. And that you do the same if you need a repeat sick note.
Hopefully if all our patients use our urgent capacity responsibly, it will mean we can get to all our patients with serious medically urgent problems. However, if we do not feel that we can provide our patients with safe medical care, we will ask patients to contact other services who can help. This may be pharmacies, 111, nhs.uk, MIU or, in some cases 999 or A&E.
Please support us in this change to ensure that we can be there for you when you need us.