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London GPs tell MPs cuts in mental health services are hitting them hard

GP surgeries in London are unable to cope with growing demand for their services because of a growing and ageing population and cuts in mental health services and social services, doctors in the capital have told MPs.

In one of the first pieces of evidence to the House of Commons health committee inquiry into growing pressure on GPs to be made public, Londonwide LMCs said that despite GPs’ efforts to meet rising demand for appointments, they are ‘beset by blockages’ due to cuts in health visitors, mental health services and social services.

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘Faced with an ageing and growing, and increasingly unwell population, GPs in deprived areas are seeing patients in their mid-40s with multiple long-term conditions which would normally only be present in those over 70, and are growing increasingly frustrated and stressed that the allotted 10-minute consultation time is simply inadequate.

‘The reckless and short-sighted reduction in support services in the community, such as health visitors, mental health services and social services, leads to overwhelmed GPs, and to the tell-tale signs of illness getting missed. That leads to GPs having more consultations, less time with patients, and patients waiting longer for appointments. Everybody gets a worse deal. Too many GPs and practice nurses in London are running on empty trying to manage these rises in demand.’

In July, a survey by the LMC found that half of London’s GP practices currently have unfilled vacancies for GPs and practice nurses, while 70% anticipate a GP retiring imminently.

The LMC also told MPs that improving GP surgery buildings, as recommended in last year’s report by former health minister Lord Ara Darzi, may help them treat more patients.

NHS England (London) said: ‘General practice is the foundation of the NHS and we understand the pressure on GPs. We are working hard with our partners, including the RCGP, on a range of initiatives to support GPs.

‘This includes increasing GP numbers, reducing bureaucracy and using the skills of other healthcare professionals, such as community pharmacists, to ensure high-quality, and, above all else, safe, patient care.

‘In addition, there will be £34.5 million worth of support for more than 200 practices in the capital to improve their premises over the next financial year and Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund pilot schemes in 16 boroughs to offer access for patients 8am to 8pm, seven days week.’