Primary care in critical condition

Difficulties in getting an appointment with south Bristol GPs have been highlighted by MP Karin Smyth, following the publication of a report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), of which she is a member.

Published on 27 April, the report highlights continuing difficulties nationwide in people getting access to a GP.

Karin Smyth said: “Our report explains that the Department of Health and NHS England are rolling out extended GP hours without really understanding what’s currently available or how to maximise existing resources.

“In south Bristol GP access is a particular problem. For example we recently had the closure of the St Martin’s Surgery, Knowle, with some 5,000 patients having to register at another practice.

“I know from my frequent discussions with constituents that getting an appointment can be a real challenge in south Bristol. Thousands of local people find themselves facing uncertainties about what they rightly see as one of the most fundamental healthcare rights: access to a local, trusted GP practice.

“Primary Care in south Bristol remains in a critical condition. I currently have little confidence the situation will be resolved, but fully expect health managers and Ministers to sort it out for people who pay their taxes and rightly expect the NHS to be there for them when they need it.”

Highlighting the role of other local healthcare resources she added: “Community pharmacies provide a vital first-port-of-call for many people with health concerns, reducing pressures on GP appointments. But instead of recognising this important role, the Tory government has actually cut funding for pharmacies.”

Amongst the PAC report findings are:
• Despite the government’s target to recruit 5,000 more GPs, the overall number of GPs has reduced in the last year
• Problems with staff retention have continued
• Health Education England has increased the number of trainee GPs recruited, but still did not manage to meet its recruitment target last year
• NHS England and Health Education England are pursuing a number of discrete initiatives to boost recruitment further, to make better use of other staff groups, and to ease workload and encourage staff to stay – but without a credible plan for how to develop a cost-effective, sustainable workforce.

The report can be found here