GP leaders have asked new Prime Minister Liz Truss to take action on poverty, warning of its profound effect on their patients’ health.
Senior GPs based in the North West yesterday urged Ms Truss to invest in primary care as part of this agenda, which they said is ‘sinking under the weight of demand’.
In a letter to Ms Truss, they said the current ‘health and energy crisis’ is ‘one of the most concerning and avoidable health crises this country has ever faced’ – with the poorest ‘underfed and in very real danger of freezing to death in the coming winter’.
The letter said: ‘We are gravely concerned that the ongoing cost-of-living debacle and the impending rise in fuel bills could precipitate both physical and mental health mortality.
‘Being health professionals in such a developed and wealthy nation, we never anticipated having to treat patients for problems such as hypothermia and malnutrition.’
It added that colleagues ‘report that up to 80% of their patients are now facing illnesses intrinsically linked to mental health’.
It said: ‘Whilst we fully understand the need to bolster emergency care in the wake of Covid-19 and ensure that waiting lists for hospital procedures are reduced, we strongly urge more investment at primary care level where surgeries are sinking under the weight of demand leading to wider health inequalities.
‘We are doing all we can to promote self-care, running campaigns to stop smoking, eat healthier diets and do more exercise. However, no amount of individual responsibility can mitigate against the rising demands due to extraneous factors.’
And the GP leaders added that they are also ‘worried’ about the health of their staff who have been ‘struggling with the demands of more patients and scant resource’.
The letter was signed by GP and Labour Councillor for Oldham Dr Zahid Chauhan, Association of Greater Manchester LMCs GP chair Dr Amir Hannan, Manchester GP Dr Tariq Chauhan and BAPIO chair and consultant psychiatrist Professor J S Bamrah.
Dr Chauhan, who spearheaded the letter, said: ‘Like my colleagues, I have seen a huge increase in illnesses directly caused by stress, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness.
‘As GPs, we feel so frustrated that we can only spare people with desperate emotional problems just ten minutes. And filling in a survey and dispensing medication to avoid catastrophe is the archetypal sticker plaster over a wound.’
But he added: ‘Unlike in the early days of Covid, this problem is solvable with no need for miracle cures or protective vaccines.
‘It just takes an administration with the desire to truly support ailing surgeries and walk-in centres and do more for the needy to alleviate poverty.’
Meanwhile, Pulse yesterday revealed that one ICS plans to go ahead with cutting £1.5m from GP practices in a deprived area after the CCG failed to phase out PMS payments.
And Pulse previously revealed that GP practices may end up tens of thousands of pounds in deficit this winter amid rising inflation and fuel costs.