Around 3% of all GP work – the equivalent of 15,000 hours per month – involves caring for disabled or elderly people who have suffered preventable injuries or illness simply because their home is inaccessible, a survey of practising GPs has found.
The poll of over a thousand UK GPs showed 95% are caring for patients who have health problems because their home is unsuitable for living with a disability and prevents them moving around freely – and that 2.9% of GPs’ total caseloads relate to problems caused by such inaccessibility problems.
The Leonard Cheshire Disability charity, which carried out the survey, estimates this is costing the NHS around £300m a year, and is calling for the Government to make sure all new homes are built to accessible standards.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: ‘General practice is currently under huge pressure dealing with the demands of a growing and ageing population with decreasing resources and a chronic shortage of GPs.
‘We need at least 10,000 more GPs across the UK by 2020 to keep up with demand, so it goes without saying that the service we could provide for our patients with an extra 15,000 working hours every month, is immense.’
Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: ‘It is shocking that GPs are spending precious time on injuries and illnesses directly related to inaccessible homes at a time when there’s overwhelming pressure on our health care system.
‘And yet it would cost absolutely nothing for the Government to require all new homes to be built to accessible standards.’
One patient Sally-Anne Walker, aged 50 and with chronic lymphedema, described her experience of suffering a fall as a result of not being able to move around her home.
She said: ‘I tripped in a narrow part of my home and suffered a bad fall last year. It took eight paramedics three hours to life and move me from the house into an ambulance. A lot of my health problems are related to my home, it’s really depressing.’