Why is my GP waiting room empty? Not because doctors are lazy

Two weeks ago, a family member went to his family doctor’s office for a pre-arranged appointment. When I asked him how it went, he replied that he did not understand how the GPs were apparently so busy, when his doctor’s waiting room was empty.

Now, for a member of my family to ask me, and I am a general practitioner with almost 20 years of experience in the field and one of the senior representatives of general medicine at the British Medical Association, this question reveals a huge difference between what people witness in their GP’s office and what they see in the papers, and what they see in the papers Doctors and the strenuous effort put in by the staff of public clinics on the ground.

Over the past two years, amid the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, GPs and our colleagues have sadly read headlines in some media about public clinics “closing” their doors or “refused” to see patients personally, implying that Public clinic cadres were sitting idle and wasting time in vain with no work to do.

read more

This section contains related articles, placed in the field (Related nodes)

Now we read headlines saying that the names of public clinics will be “disclosed and exposed” in the “classification lists”, where monthly data will be published for the first time at the individual application level revealing the number of appointments, waiting times. , and whether they are face-to-face interviews. In fact, the potential for further abuse of GPs and their staff and clinics increased, fueling fear and anger among colleagues.

It must be emphasized that when the first wave of “Covid-19” swept us in the spring of 2020, the British government and the “National Health Service” (NHS) asked public clinics in England to put measures in place to limit the spread. of this deadly virus. . The procedures included adopting a “telephone-first consultation” system – or the overall classification of patients – and limiting in-person appointments to appropriate, safe and clinically necessary cases. The clinics have shown great initiative and skill in changing their operations overnight for the safety of patients and staff. Our actions were critical in stopping the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus in waiting rooms full of sick patients.

Fast forward two and a half years later, when GPs and their teams led a world-leading vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and public clinics were under unprecedented stress. Unfortunately, the workload is suffocating and explaining how difficult things are may not be easy.

We have a record-breaking list of patients waiting for surgery and hospital appointments, and people who may have put off healthcare during the worst of the pandemic are really asking for help again. In addition, the cost of living crisis has a serious impact on people’s mental and psychological health and in some cases physical, while the reality is putting an enormous demand on GP clinics that we cannot control.

In October 2022, public clinics in England booked more than 32 million appointments. One appointment for every other adult in the country, the highest monthly number they’ve seen since registrations began, yet we’re constantly told we’re not doing enough.

In addition, GPs and their staff have provided almost 4 million life-saving vaccines in their community.

But this has all been achieved against a backdrop of a declining workforce, with the loss of the equivalent of 380 full-time qualified GPs last year – a staggering 1,900 GPs since 2015, revealing just how hard the remaining GPs and their clinical teams are working. GPs who reach the peak of their success in their mid-50s cannot afford to move on and have to leave early – this is a huge loss of experience and knowledge.

It is true that the percentage of in-person appointments is still slightly lower than it was before the pandemic, but 70 percent of the appointments recorded for patients in October took place face-to-face with a doctor. With such high demand, any accusations that doctors are deviating from their role could not be further from the truth.

So why is my GP’s waiting room empty, I hear you ask?

In any given 48 hours in my clinic, my team and I will handle over a thousand patients, either in the clinic, over the phone, via video calls or in their homes. Countless letters, medical test results, phone calls to nursing homes or hospitals, forms and certifications, staff training and compliance all contribute to the care we provide in our community.

Every day we are faced with extremely dangerous cases and situations, from serious mental and psychological health crises, serious diseases of the heart and lungs, and painful kidney stones, to new cancer diagnoses and providing health care to patients on their deathbeds in their homes. . However, the waiting room can sometimes be empty.

In some ways the UK’s response to the pandemic has not been successful, from the test and trace program to the tragedy of patients being discharged to care homes without being tested for the virus, but some changes in clinics have enabled us to think differently about ways to improve Our working methods are to manage future demand, making the best of available capabilities, while striving to provide patients with the care they need.

Not every patient will need to visit the clinic themselves, and many will prefer not to have to take time off in the morning or afternoon to do so. At the same time, in some cases it is best to see another professional, such as a pharmacist or physiotherapist, who may not be based in the clinic building.

There is no doubt that we try to make a direct appointment in the clinic at the request of the patients. Far from turning away when they want it, our hard-working receptionists, or care navigators as we often call them, are trained experts dedicated to helping you find the right person and service for your health needs. They often answer a multitude of phone calls, and the least we can ask is that they receive the same respect and understanding they tirelessly show patients.

We appreciate and understand the frustration that some patients feel when they find it very difficult to undergo life-saving surgery, especially at 8am, but the abuse that some staff, especially the receptionists, have been subjected to over the last two years is completely unacceptable. .

Fueled by constant attacks in some media often backed by politicians, this hostility does great damage to the well-being of colleagues and ultimately leads to them leaving their jobs at a time when we need to hold on to as many colleagues as possible.

So please keep this fact in mind the next time you read a headline about lazy family doctors or “part-time” workers who just want to get off work early to hit the golf course. Please don’t direct your anger at your GP, but at your Member of Parliament. Politicians have failed us badly, while the NHS and public medicine are on the brink of collapse.

After all, the GP clinic staff and patients are in the same boat, and although the waiting room may seem less busy than many are used to, there is a dedicated staff working behind the scenes to take care of people. I can’t even play golf.

Dr David Wrigley is a general practitioner and vice-chairman of the General Practitioners Committee in England.

Leave a Comment