April 7, 2022 2.30 pm

Alarming report reveals Lincolnshire GPs feel health service “unsafe”

But number of appointments increases

GPs in Lincolnshire feel the health service is “unsafe for patients and practitioners”, according to an alarming report.

Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee will be given an update on General Practice Access next Wednesday from Dr Kieran Sharrock of the Lincolnshire Local Medical Committee which represents 450 GPs in the county.

At the same meeting, Councillors will also receive a report from the Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group which takes a more positive view of the situation.

Dr Sharrock’s report, which is first on the agenda, details a national situation of “over-stretched” general practice with a recent poll of Great Britain finding a majority of GPs feared patients were “not always safe” in their surgeries and that risk was increasing.

A third of GPs reported depression and burnout, while health services suffer from a workforce shortage.

Despite this, however, Lincolnshire’s GPs saw a 6% rise in the number of appointments they carried out in 2021, bringing the total to 370,170.

Face-to-face appointments were down though with just 66% actually meeting their doctor, due to innovations in technology or the use of other health professionals such as pharmacists, paramedics and mental health practitioners to manage patient conditions.

It comes as Primary Care Networks have not been able to use their entire allocation of funding for additional roles due to restrictions on the spends, or a lack of available professionals in the county.

“Lincolnshire general practice is under dual pressures of increasing demand and workforce shortages,” said Dr Sharrock’s report.

“Despite this, Lincolnshire’s practices have increased the number of appointments they are providing.

“Primary Care Networks have not been able to recruit adequately to additional roles, this is worse in Lincolnshire due to the rural and coastal locality.

Dr Sharrock said self-care and prevention “must be prioritised to alleviate future pressures”.

“A lack of workforce planning, and other factors, has resulted in the position that GPs feel that the health service is now unsafe for patients and practitioners.”

The report on general practice provision from Sarah-Jane Mills, chief operating officer at the CCG, however, said GPs had made “outstanding contributions” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It acknowledged the “increased pressure” due to demand and backlogs caused by restrictions, but said the service was “managing”.

It said practices had embraced new ways of working, including phone and online tools, and estimated an average of 20% more appointments, with 5% more seeing same day appointments and 4% being given a meeting between one and six days.

Around £1.5 million has been invested by the CCG to create an additional 60,000 appointments during January to March.

A further £5.6 million had been invested in recruiting 105 more people to work as part of the Primary Care Networks, it said.

“Thanks to the commitment, hard work and innovation of GP colleagues across Lincolnshire, GP provision in the county is good,” said Ms Mills report.

“There are continued challenges associated with increased demand and workforce availability that mean that the model of primary care service provision will change and evolve in the coming years.”

She said new Primary Care Networks, increased availability of digital services and opportunities to work in partnership with other agencies will increasingly give people with minor illness a greater choice of where to access care and treatment and in turn allow GPs to redesign the way they provide services.