Letter to Editor: Why have Harlow’s GPs pulled up the drawbridge?

Health / Tue 21st Sep 2021 at 01:32pm


I READ your article about health in Essex with a mixture of disbelief and anger at the comments of Dr Gogarty when it is blatantly clear that one of the main reasons that health in Essex is in crisis is because GP’s and Health centres have literally ‘pulled up the drawbridge’ and are not seeing patients face to face, not addressing the massive problem of up to 2 hour waits in telephone queues, if you can even get on to the queue in the first place, and as a result forcing their patients to look elsewhere and in the majority of cases that means visiting A&E.

If you do manage to speak to someone its usually only to be given a telephone appointment, probably with a locum who has no idea about you, your medical history and what use is that if a diagnosis rests on needing a physical examination and/or knowledge of the patient’s history. 

Not to worry we will just send them to the hospital to see a real person. If the GP had done what he/she is meant to do a visit to the hospital would probably not even be required. 

Dr Gogarty has set out that physical activity, weight management, alcohol and loneliness as key aspects that need addressing but also included concerns around substance abuse, sexual health and smoking.

All of the above can be addressed in the community and the primary community resource is? You’ve guessed it the Health Centres and GP’s! 

Dr Gogarty says, “We need to look at those wider determinates better – economic growth and jobs, education, lifelong learning, housing and accommodation and crime and community safety.

All good stuff to use in the blame game but his GP’s and Health Centres need to be engaging with their patients so that these problems can be picked up in face-to-face meetings, A&E doctors have neither the time or resources to do this and they shouldn’t be expected too either.

Dr Gogarty states that “We have a very unwell, deconditioned population post Covid with high levels of alcohol misuse and lots of avoidable heart disease and diabetes.” This problem was already showing itself pre-covid and the pandemic and lockdowns have just brought the problem to the forefront sooner

Alcohol abuse is a very big problem in Harlow and as Chairman of Licencing I have introduced a scheme to tackle street drinking involving multiple agencies (Police, Community safety and others) to educate sales outlets initially to stop the sale of alcohol to the intoxicated and to deal with the sale of high strength beers and ciders at very low prices which is an offence. If needed licencing officers are looking at enforcement which I do hope wont be needed, again we need to involve the Health Centres but if they won’t engage with the community…

Avoidable heart disease is another area he talks about well if people cannot get to see their GP I am not surprised, some of your readers may recall I suffered a massive heart attack in 2014 which thanks to the doctors and nurses at PAH and Basildon cardiac care unit I survived, but as I now have a cardiac condition I need to have an annual review 2020 there wasn’t one, but I am being bombarded with letters and texts telling me I need to make an appointment, guess what, I can’t get through on the phone and I was turned away when I tried to make an appointment in person!

He states that mental health is horrendous, I agree it has been since the early 90’s when the failed Care in the community programme was introduced allowing the big mental hospitals like Claybury to be closed. Since then, successive governments of all political persuasion have failed to provide good mental health services leaving our mental health professionals and sufferers literally abandoned.

I don’t apologise for this being a long letter, by it’s nature and subject matter it needs to be.

Unless Dr Gogarty addresses the elephant in the room and stops trying to distract with platitudes and promises the situation will not get any better, the government have and are massively increasing NHS funding but unless you unblock this critical part of our NHS the only outcome sadly will be one part of this national treasure causing un-necessary strain and pressure on A&E front line services and that is avoidable if you act now Dr Gogarty!

Kind regards

Councillor Nick Churchill

Member champion for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Harlow District Council

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19 Comments for Letter to Editor: Why have Harlow’s GPs pulled up the drawbridge?:

2021-09-21 14:09:35

Nick, whilst I broadly agree with your point regarding access to GPs and making appointments, as indeed this is something I’ve heard from other sources. My own quite recent experience at Lister House with Dr Sattar was excellent. Your letter might be better received it it was not so adversarial In it’s tone and bearing in mind your position and as a councillor there must be better and more constructive ways to address this issue, otherwise there’s a danger that this looks like political posturing. Perhaps a letter directly to Dr Gogarty’s office rather than to Your Harlow?

2021-09-21 14:19:11

I have had a horrendous time with my GP surgery still being closed, I myself am disabled and feel that this issue has been going on far longer than just pre covid, it has been increasingly difficult to get a doctors appointment since 2009ish, mental health beds were one of the first cutbacks, and then a lot of beds have been "sold off" in other words privatised. Tories sure do like squeezing the NHS to breaking point, underpay the staff and selling little bits off and then blaming the doctors for it eh Nick?

Amanda Pond
2021-09-21 14:48:51

I wholeheartedly agree with Nick! I have witnessed first hand the absolutely horrendous job of trying to contact my own surgery (Lister House), taking weeks to finally get through and months to get anything done!! On the other hand once through, I saw a clinician named Paul who put me through rapid access and since then I have had the most comprehensive and fabulous treatment by Princess Alexander hospital. It does seem though that GP's have decided that they are more important than anyone else and are more at risk than say those working in other front line jobs???? Being in education myself this sticks sorely in my throat!! Unless something is done about local surgeries, telephone queues, face to face appointments it seems that A and E and GP units in hospitals will continue to bear the brunt of this lack of service to the public.

2021-09-21 14:55:01

Not surprising to hear this come from a conservative. Our gps and staff are struggling with underfunding, lack of resources and all because of the Conservatives cut backs. By blaming the people who want to help others the Conservatives sit back and add fuel to the fire. This is their doing and has been for some time, you only have to look who has been in power.

2021-09-21 15:04:52

idiots phoning because they stubbed a toe or have a cold cause the issues

2021-09-21 15:05:31

There is no drawbridge its not 1894. The Doctors and Nurses are of great help to everyone.

Daryl Chilcott
2021-09-21 15:12:10

I have found it impossible to get to see my GP at Keats house,and 2 weeks ago my partner stayed on the phone for 1hr 15mins waiting for the Barbara Castle Health Centre to answer,she was then given an appointment to attend Addison House at 17.30,she was the only person in the waiting room and waited 50 mins before being asked if she had an appointment! After finally seeing the GP she was then told to wait in the car for 30mins while he 'pings' the prescription across to the chemist at Wych Elm. After the 30 min wait for the 'ping',which would have taken 10 mins had she been given a paper prescription to hand to the chemist,she was then told it had actually been sent to the chemist nearest the Barbara Castle Health Centre in Sumners. Absolute farce.

2021-09-21 15:12:43

I have found it impossible to get to see my GP at Keats house,and 2 weeks ago my partner stayed on the phone for 1hr 15mins waiting for the Barbara Castle Health Centre to answer,she was then given an appointment to attend Addison House at 17.30,she was the only person in the waiting room and waited 50 mins before being asked if she had an appointment! After finally seeing the GP she was then told to wait in the car for 30mins while he 'pings' the prescription across to the chemist at Wych Elm. After the 30 min wait for the 'ping',which would have taken 10 mins had she been given a paper prescription to hand to the chemist,she was then told it had actually been sent to the chemist nearest the Barbara Castle Health Centre in Sumners. Absolute farce.

Kay Morrison
2021-09-21 15:19:32

Well said, Alex, James and Lisa. Thanks for your clear-sighted understanding of the motives behind this letter and of the reasons for our NHS being in difficulties. None of us has forgotten the relentless, repeated cut backs, the merciless austerity measures. We know that the NHS had been savagely underfunded for years by the Conservatives before the pandemic. And now the NHS is being attacked by those who systematically removed its resources ... funding, staff, capacity, PPE! And they have the nerve to offer exhausted staff a pittance as a pay increase! Maybe they're about to offer another pat on the back? Another insult?

2021-09-21 17:05:58

Ive been bad since first lock down ive stopped phoning. All i get is a jumped up nurse telling me over the phone i had a prolasped womb. Hello darling i had my womb taken away years ago, it turned out i had water infection. It frightens me that something serious is going on. So where are the doctors itseems that the nurses are running the gp units.

C green
2021-09-21 17:14:26

Oh dear so it the governments fault Lisa...... Lister House surgery finance is controlled by the GPS. Front line staff do a difficult job very well, while the management leave a lot to be desired. No response from surveys and a telephone system that has been dreadful for years not just since covid. An on line system that is inadequate. A car park that has far to few spaces for patients and far too many for staff. Drive around looking for a space to park while half the staff spaces are empty. And that’s the conservatives fault is it?

Linda Dalby
2021-09-21 19:19:20

so as the TV commercial says " if you have diohrrea for 3 days speak to your doctor . how about 10 months with 2 hospital visits . if I could see my own doctor whose surgery I have been with over 50 years and know me they could sort it out

2021-09-21 21:36:53

While recognising that the HCPs are doing a tough job in tough times the majority of comments are reporting issues in seeing their GP. Dr Amir Ipakchi has recently left Barbara Cadtle Health Centre and while I wish him well he will be sorely missed as he was one of the best Doctors in the town - there is lots of contradictory information as to why he left but several people have commented if this was because of the major drop in service since his practice joined with Addison House I have personal experience of bad service from Addison House which is why I have not given my name If Councillor Churchill (excellent letter abive) wants to get an accurate picture of the state of the GP practices and PAH I would suggest he gets on the Nextdoor website as some of the comments about getting through to GP practices in the town are truly jaw dropping I would welcome comments from Robert Halfon MP as following him on Twitter he seems to have forgotten he needs to serve his constituents and not just in respect to education. This is a time bomb waiting to happen I was referred to my GP for a condition from a central clinic and am well overdue a check up but cannot get through to my FP. In fact since Dr Ipakchi left I have yet to be informed who my named GP is but surely patient notes will show who needs to he called in but the GP practices seem to gave forgotten how to telephone their patients so if we can't get through then things will soon go to hell in a hand cart with extra pressure being put on PAH as a result until the local health services go bang!

2021-09-21 22:17:03

The whole NHS is a joke. I have had a skin problem since October last year. I have spoken to doctors, dermatologists, gastroenterologist, exclusion therapists, yet NOT one face to face. Not one of them has seen my condition, yet they all seem qualified to give an opinion on what it may or may not be. If they sat me down in front of them, I'm sure they could diagnose instantly. What a shambles. I also suffer with asthma/copd and have had no assessments in 2 years! Something needs to be done!

Mark Gough
2021-09-22 02:29:22

I find it rather pathetic that Labour members are trying to turn this into a Political debate. It isn't one, it's a Community Leader raising an issue on behalf of the Community. In other words the job he was elected for - and is darn good at! No-one is attacking front line staff. This is a management issue in our GP practices. Like Nick I have hypertension and need a yearly check, and like Nick I had a phone conversation last year. As a Care worker I have been to work throughout the pandemic and refuse to see why GPs haven't. There is a National shortage of both Doctors and nurses (100,000 of each is the estimate) and this has been the case throughout Governments of all colours. The main reason is a stupid cap on training places of both each year set at 7,500, and recently raised to 10,000. So a minimum of ten years to make up the shortfall!! Ridiculous! Unless you scrap this cap and let every hospital set up a Medical School and Nurse Training Centre to train their own people, I don't see that changing anytime soon. In short daft policies are as bad as a lack of, or badly allocated funding!

2021-09-22 06:28:56

It's very short sighted to say it's an underfunded organisation. Locla gp surgeries are run like franchises within the NHS. If you give me a million pound I'll find a way to use it to do my business, if you give me 3 million pound, I'll also find a way to use it.. Simply throwing money at a problem isn't the solution, using it wisely and efficiently is a whole different ballgame and never appears to be the solution suggested! Simply throw more money at it!

2021-09-22 09:50:19

Unless someone tells me otherwise, Harlow GP's are a disgrace to their profession. They seem to treat the Hippocratic oath with little more respect than yesterdays chip paper, they even choose to ignore a directive issued by NHS England in May 2021 to no longer triage patients either by telephone or video link and reinstate face to face appointments to all patients. Does there refusal constitute a breach of contract?. Any other employee refusing to carry out the directives of their Employer would be subject of some form of disciplinary procedure, why does the NHS continue to turn a blind eye and allow them to do what they want. If they continue not to allow face to face appointments for all patients, then they should be made to work in the A & E departments to deal with the overspill of patients attending there because they cannot see their GP. I have asked Robert Halfon to issue a "Freedom of Information" request to Harlow surgeries asking how many face to face appointments were carried out in the year preceeding the pandemic and how many have been carried out since it began. They appear to be scared of seeing patients, but when they go home are they living the life of a recluse or are they mixing with their friends and family ,going shopping and doing what the rest of us have to do on a daily basis?.

2021-09-23 07:26:41

For those who get this far down the comments page, can I suggest you read the following article written by a GP. It does shed light on the pressures GPS are facing. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/20/gps-overlooked-crisis-nhs-health-hospitals

2022-02-09 14:52:31

My Auntie has a long history of mental health, and fibromyalgia. Dr Ipakchi was her Dr for nearly 28ys. Then we found out he had left through a neighbourhood website. She got into a terrible state. She is under AddiHouse now but to ring up and to be told your 27 in the queue is ridiculous. When I got through they told me the dr would ring in 2 weeks time and decide if she can have a face to face. Don't get me started on Robert Halfron, when Burnt Mill Academy cut down jobs he didn't care less.

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