Last week we reported on how more patients were being forced to visit hospital A&E departments due to not being able to get an appointment with their GP. New figures released by the Royal College of GP’s today show the extent of the crisis with 47 million GP consultations in 2013 involving a wait of at least 7 days. With 1 in every 6 patients waiting at least a week to see their GP, there are worries that the most vulnerable and ‘least assertive’ are being overlooked in favour of those who ‘shout the loudest’. Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard from the Royal College said she believed that patients were being put at risk because family doctors were overloaded. The figures show that at some of the worst hit surgeries patients were waiting up to 1 month to see their GP though some, including this lady in Edinburgh, are claiming they have had to wait for up to 7 weeks.
Alongside this data, The Royal College of GP’s also released the results of a poll in which 8 out of 10 GP’s stated that they fear they might miss a serious illness due to the workload demands being placed on them. A spokesman for the department of health said: “we know GPs are under pressure, so we’re cutting GP targets by more than a third to free up more time with patients and increasing trainees so that GP numbers continue to grow faster than the population.”
These figures have added fuel to the debate over whether or not the decision to scrap the 48 hour GP waiting time target was correct. The target, which was introduced by the previous Labour government, was binned in 2010 during efforts by the coalition government to tackle ‘target culture’ within the NHS.
Lack of Beds Forcing Mental Health Patients to Travel for Hundreds of Miles
Hospitals are struggling to meet the growing demand for emergency mental health admissions, forcing some patients to travel for hundreds of miles to get the care that they need. The number of patients who have had to seek ‘out of area’ care has increased to 3024 in 2013/14 compared to less than half that number (1301) in 2011/12. It has also come to light that one mental health patient was admitted to a deaf unit due to a lack of beds at her local mental health ward and elsewhere one trust spent over £300,000 on housing patients in B&B accommodation. Since April 2011 there has been a loss of over 1700 mental health beds across adult care and elderly wards as well as in psychiatric intensive care units.
Paul Farmer, the chief executive the charity MIND said: “It is a disgrace that people with mental health problems are being sent miles away from family and friends or are being accommodated in inappropriate settings when they are acutely unwell.” Farmer went on to describe the NHS Mental Health Service as being in the middle of a crisis when it came to the quality and availability of services.