Your (burnt out) doctor will see you now……

There never has been some mythical golden age when every patient got the time they really needed with their General Practitioner, but seeing your GP is expected to get even harder.

Reviews by both the Centre for Workforce Intelligence and GP taskforce have concluded that the UK has too few GPs and the ones that we do have are increasingly stressed, burnt out and feel unable to deliver health care safely.

GP funding is 8.3% of the cost of the NHS in return for providing 90% of medical contacts. This percentage of funding is at an all-time low. Failure to keep pace with the aging population, complex illness, cancer survivors, the rising female workforce, the doubling of specialist doctor workforce and the tendency for GPs to prefer portfolio careers to full time General Practice all have played a part in the current workload/manpower mismatch.

Dr Veronica Wilke, professor of primary care from the University of Worcester, says, “Students and trainees who witness stressed, burnt out GPs, who feel isolated and unsupported, are unlikely to choose general practice for a career. Preventing attrition in the existing workforce is as important as recruiting new trainees. Hospitals have fewer beds, and the call is for more care in the community. GPs and primary care nurses are retiring, leaving and emigrating. Cornwall, Reading and Bristol cannot recruit enough GPs to keep practices open and training schemes remain unfilled.”

So, what can you do to prevent your GP getting sectioned into the local mental hospital or running off to Australia?

Here are my tips:

  1. Think about what you want to achieve in your consultation with your GP.
  2. You only have ten minutes, so either one big thing or two small things is realistic.
  3. Write these things down. Use the Patient Concerns Questionnaire from our book.
  4. Do you need to see a GP for any of these things? Sometimes a nurse, health visitor or health assistant would be more suitable. There are often ways for obtaining results or repeat prescriptions or immunisations that the practice has already set up.
  5. Make the appointment in the name of the person who is to be seen.
  6. Don’t ask for other family members issues to be squeezed in while you are there.
  7. If you can possibly come to the surgery instead of asking for a house call do this.
  8. If your issues can be dealt with by phone is there a way this can be sorted out by the practice?
  9. Be as well educated as you can about the illnesses you have and on keeping yourself fit and well.

Now, it’s time we heard from you.

Have you noticed any change in how your General Practice care has been affected by the manpower crisis?

Have you any other tips to help patients get efficient service from their GP team?

Any tips for these stressed GPs and practice nurses?

Based on an article by Veronica Wilkie: BMJ 2014;349:g6274

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