7:30 AM June 17, 2022
A Suffolk GP has warned that his surgery is facing a “tricky” situation due to a lack of staff and a growing number of patients needing care.
Dr Richard West MBE, who works at Woolpit Health Centre, said the team there were under pressure as he responded to a speech by Health Secretary Sajid Javid which highlighted the difficulties faced by the NHS in dealing with a backlog of care following the Covid-19 pandemic.
In particular, Mr Javid said some 11 to 13 million people had stayed away from healthcare during the coronavirus crisis, but they were now “rightly” coming forward to seek treatment.
In addition, the NHS was facing “generational” challenges posed by an ageing population, but funding alone was not going to be the answer with a greater emphasis needed instead on prevention, early diagnosis and more effective care.
Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the British Medical Association council, which represents GPs, said doctors were “exhausted, demoralised and overstretched” as they struggled to cope with demand.
Dr West said: “It is difficult because there is no doubt that the workload is going up and we have not got as many staff.
“Staffing numbers have not increased with the workload and with people waiting longer, they do require more care so it is very tricky at the moment, just because of the volume.”
He added Covid-19 had made the situation “considerably worse” because operations were postponed during the lockdowns, with the result that patients have been waiting longer for care and therefore need more care now that they can come forward for treatment.
“It is very tricky because at the end of the day we could do with more staff, but that is a long-term solution not a short-term solution and at the end of the day we have to do the best we can with what we have got at the moment,” he said.
Dr Wrigley has called for a long-term plan for healthcare, detailing how many doctors would need to be trained to meet demand.
He added: “Doctors and their colleagues are exhausted, demoralised and overstretched as there simply aren’t enough of them. The NHS is suffering from a growing capacity gap.
“Both the secretary of state and the chief executive of NHS England and NHS Improvement, while recognising general practice as the ‘bedrock of the NHS’ and ‘front door to health and care’, say that the current model ‘isn’t working’ , but is this any surprise given that England has lost the equivalent of more than 1,600 full-time GPs since 2015?”