Summer workload has reached levels typical for the coldest months of the year, according to GPs who are now dreading an ‘apocalyptic’ winter.
GPs said that they had 210 patient requests in a single day, that they were running out of appointments for the ‘first time ever’, and that appointments were running at 100% above 2019 levels,
Surrey GP partner Dr Dave Triska said patient requests on Monday last week were up by around a sixth compared to his practice’s ‘worst mid-winter Monday’ a few years ago, before the Covid pandemic.
He said on Twitter:
He added: ‘It’s a risk sink service – always open, no cap. Combined with failure everywhere plus population angst and falling staff numbers perfect storm.’
Dr Triska told Pulse that this week’s Monday workload again ‘eclipsed’ previous winter workload highs, saying that ‘acute’ workload from patients contacting the practice about current issues such as anxiety, a cough or a headache has ‘skyrocketed’.
He said: ‘Last Monday was worse in terms of workload than our busiest mid-winter four years ago, yesterday eclipsed it again and additionally we had Covid absences in the staff amongst it.
‘The administrative burden generated by a heavy acute workload is crippling the practice at the moment; all available time is spent seeing patients with exhausted GPs having to cram in paperwork at all hours.’
He added that this is ‘not sustainable, not safe and made worse by the appalling expansion of our workload and an effective pay cut for partners who are, quite literally sadly, working themselves to death.’
And he said that ‘winter will be apocalyptic in and out of hospital’.
Mid Mersey LMC medical secretary and GP Dr Ivan Camphor also told Pulse that his summer workload is as high as he would expect it to be in winter, adding that it has ‘definitely increased’.
He said: ‘Part of the problem is that we’re doing more work through PCN, the stuff that’s not being done in hospitals because [of] early discharges or around pre-op assessments and also, the same old story of when a patient’s having a hernia repair done in the hospital or a hip replacement, they’re not coming out with a sick note. They come into the surgery for a sick note.’
He added: ‘We’re dreading winter because it’s going to get even worse. That’s the problem, and with little support.’
Surrey GP partner Dr Tim Bates said that in the last three months, his practice ‘ran out of appointments for the first time ever, 70% of the time’.
And Glasgow GP Dr John James O’Dowd also said: ‘We are running [at] about 100% higher demand on [the] base of 2019. Very, very high levels of distress and health anxiety. Still lots of hidden need.’
NHS England’s winter plan, announced last week, includes boosting hospital capacity with extra beds and increasing the number of call handlers working for NHS 111.
NHS England has also set out a target to achieve ‘quick wins’ to improve access to GP practices before the end of the financial year, although it did not go into detail about what this would entail.
Additional reporting by Costanza Potter