Doctors have this week warned of the very real threat that patients may soon be denied access to local health services as a result of crippling GP shortages.
The struggle to attract graduates to the profession combined with rapidly increasing demand have left the service at crisis point, they claim.
Their doomsday verdict may seem extreme – but the reality for those who need primary care is stark. In recent months, we have seen under-pressure practices struggling to such an extent that some have even stopped accepting new patients.
Billy McKee, a member of the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body, and a GP at Walton Surgery in Felixstowe, told the EADT that the service was surviving only on the “good will of the profession”.
What’s causing the problem?
There are a number of factors at play here.
The obvious result of an ever-ageing population is increased pressure on GPs and primary care as a whole.
The ‘patching up’ of the system – by using locums to plug holes – leads to fragmented care; patients don’t get to see their own GP, instead receiving treatment from someone unfamiliar with their medical history.
There has been a lack of investment, not only in people but also in the way services are delivered – a problem felt acutely in rural areas like Suffolk, where patients often rely on smaller surgeries.
Our out-of-hours care is also, at times, sub-optimal, leading to an increased risk of errors being made.
Meanwhile, in Suffolk, as in the rest of the UK, we are, quite rightly, encouraging house-building on an epic scale. But those developments must be supported by the necessary infrastructure – particularly around health provision – to ensure those new communities are properly catered for.
The failure to properly address these problems has led to further financial burdens, with patients requiring access to services again and again, and – in the worst case scenario – the health service facing negligence claims as a result of serious mistakes.
How can Gotelee Solicitors help?
We can assist patients by informing them of their rights and whether they are eligible to make a claim or not.
Gotelee has an expert team of lawyers with a wealth of experience in this area. To find out more, call 01473 211121.