A GP practice in Carlisle has stopped allowing patients to book appointments in advance because of the immense pressure it is facing.
Fusehill Medical Practice has introduced a telephone triage system, with a doctor speaking to all patients before they can book an appointment, and appointments only available on the day.
Partners at the practice have said that they have had trouble with the pre-bookable appointment system, and recruitment problems are worsening the situation.
It is the latest practice to do so, following a similar measure being taken by a practice in Swindon.
Dr Charlotte Asquith, a GP at the practice, told the News and Star: ‘We have not made these changes lightly and have given a great deal of thought as to how we can safely manage the needs and expectations of our patients in very difficult circumstances.
‘Our pre-bookable appointment system has become unsustainable with patients ringing at 8am day after day only to be told “there are no appointments left”.’
‘This is a concern because serious conditions could be missed. In response, the practice has taken the decision for a doctor to triage by telephone all requests for medical advice.’
Health checks for long-term conditions can still be booked in advance. The system also aims to reduce DNAs, as the practice currently has around 40 a week.
Dr Asquith added that recruitment problems are worsening the situation: ‘When I joined the practice in 1997 there were six doctors for 8,400 patients. Today, despite nationwide repeated attempts to recruit more staff, there are just three doctors, one of whom is on leave due to bereavement, to care for 8,600 patients.’
Dr Geoff Jolliffe, interim clinical chair of NHS Cumbria CCG told the News and Star: ‘There is a national shortage of GPs. The reality is that general practice has to change to be able to meet a growing demand, and patients will have to get used to some changes, whether it’s the way appointments are made, or seeing other clinicians including the practice nurse.’
Abbey Meads medical group in Swindon is also only offering same-day appointments for a trial period to counteract ‘a high number of patients who are not attending pre booked appointments,’ according to their website.