It was recently revealed that an alarming number of GP practices are reluctant to treat new patients. The number of GP practices adopting this stance has also increased sharply compared to two years ago, and is now twice as much as it was then.
In the last twelve months some 104 GP practices sought permission from the NHS authorities to stop receiving patients. On top of this, 45 other surgeries were effectively trying to cut down on the number of patients that they accept. To achieve this, GP’s were looking to reduce their area boundaries – with the result being that they could cut their patients lists. If this was to happen, it would mean that some of the GP’s existing patients would be forced to look for treatment elsewhere.
There is no doubt that GP practices are facing a crisis, and around a hundred are facing the threat of being closed down altogether. When there is a large influx of people moving into certain areas of the UK, doctors are claiming to be overwhelmed due to the sudden increase in people they are expected to see. As a consequence, new patients aren’t being added to GP lists, and are having to visit new surgeries instead.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, acknowledged the pressure that GP’s are under but said that patient care was being badly affected. She gave population increase (notably the fact that more people were living longer) and declining investment in the NHS, as reasons as to why things have reached this point. A shortage of GP’s in the UK has exacerbated the situation, Dr Baker added. She also believes that general practice itself is “teetering on the brink of collapse”.
Recruiting GP’s is currently proving to be very problematic. If this trend continues, with a continued rise in the population and more people reaching old age, the situation could get a lot worse in the next few years. Indeed, the figures for GP training have been called the “worst ever”, with the East Midlands and northern England showing notable declines in interest. Waiting times can also be expected to be more of a problem in the future, especially from 2015 onwards. Then, more than two weeks is expected to be the norm, regarding waiting time for appointments, according to many overstretched GPs.