Written evidence submitted by Ross (FGP0198)


What are the main barriers to accessing general practice and how can these be tackled?


The Government and NHS England need to communicate with the general population that there are other healthcare professionals besides GPs who can offer support. For example if a patient wants to see their GP because they are stressed or not sleeping because of debt concerns, they would be far better supported by a social prescriber. If they want support with losing weight or giving up smoking, the health coach is going to be best placed to offer this assistance. If they are unsure about how to effectively take their medication, the practice pharmacist can provide help with this. The general population are largely unaware that these additional roles exist within practices and believe they must see a doctor. They could be waiting for an unnecessarily long time to see their GP when one of these supporting roles could offer assistance in a much shorter time frame. As it is, because they insist on seeing their GP, they wait for the appointment and then get referred onto the relevant member of staff afterwards. This takes up GP time and prolongs the patient getting the required advice.


What are the main challenges facing general practice in the next 5 years?


We now live in a society where we can have same day delivery of goods bought online and there are 24/7 customer support agents available on social media. The NHS cannot meet these timeframes that people have become accustomed to. Even without the pandemic, there are simply not enough staff available to allow patients to have same day access to their preferred professional.


The recruitment and retention of GPs was already well known before the pandemic. This situation is not going to get better without significant investment.


We have waiting lists at hospitals for specialists, operations and routine surgeries that are extremely long due to the pandemic. This leaves frustrated patients going back to their GPs desperate for help. This places extra pressure on primary care.


It’s an unknown entity at the moment but how will general practice support potential covid vaccination efforts over the next 5 years. If more boosters are required year after year, how will primary care facilities cope with this addition to other challenges.


To what extent has general practice been able to work in effective partnerships with other professions within primary care and beyond to free more GP time for patient care?


Whilst there have been significant improvements in communications between statutory services, there are still many areas that lack the required elements. If a person is being supported by primary care, social services and CMHT; none of these services can see what the other is doing. Primary care uses SystmOne, adult social care are on Mosaic and CMHT are on Rio. Patients expect professionals involved with their care to know their story and what is going but this isn’t the case and leads to frustration for the individual and duplication of work for professionals. Each of those services may have a letter on file from one of the other services but the situation could have moved on since it was written particularly for complex patients. We need to see in real time what is going on in order to provide the best possible care and advice.


With the adoption of social prescribing into general practice, there are better links with voluntary sector groups and organisations who can provide assistance to individuals. However, this is not an unlimited resource. The voluntary sector are facing their own issues of underfunding, closures due to the pandemic and increased demand on services. They require investment and capacity development too, we cannot simply expect them to plug the gaps in statutory provision without support from those same statutory bodies.


December 2021