Letter to Editor: Getting to see your Harlow GP: Blame the bureaucrats

Health / Wed 29th Sep 2021 at 03:41pm


I wasn’t planning on writing this letter but following a phone call from my doctors offering me an appointment for my medical review, two days after my first letter was published, I felt I needed to, if for no other reason to highlight the hypocrisy and unfairness of the whole situation that we patients have found ourselves in through no fault of our own.

In my previous letter, “why have Harlow’s GPs pulled up the drawbridge?” I was raising the issue faced by thousands of residents across the town and indeed the country in being unable to access GP services and the resultant unnecessary pressure being placed on A&E as a result.

While a few people tried to make it a political issue, which it is not, most people commenting reflected the frustrations they are facing and feeling because of this crisis.

As I said in my first letter this situation can be tracked to pre covid days, the pandemic has just accelerated the situation.

I truly believe that this has been caused not by medical staff but by poor administration primarily within the Clinical Commissioning Group’s and by local management. This ill-conceived plan to restrict patient contact is hurting the patients that need it most, the elderly and the medically vulnerable.

The ability to interact properly and face to face with patients is a principal cornerstone of the NHS and cannot allowed to be thrown away.

The NHS in the 90’s lost its way and the compulsion of meeting targets, ticking boxes and leading the service not from the needs of patients but from the need of the spread sheet took over and for probably 20 years or so the founding principles were lost, The reintroduction of the matron in 2002 was a good move but they were hindered by the accountants and bureaucrats who rather than working with them seemed to do the opposite.

The current massive investments in the NHS by the government is very welcome and despite what some doomsayers are claiming is having a positive effect but the one ‘fly in the ointment’ is the ability of the GP surgeries to communicate with their patients or more specifically their patients being able to speak to someone without massive delays and frustrations.

It’s all very well having text messaging, smart technology answering the phones and asking questions to identify what’s wrong. But the people this is failing is the elderly and vulnerable, many who are not on the internet, don’t have a smart phone etc.

I have been getting phone calls from constituents who are in this situation, and they are scared, they don’t understand why they can’t get through to their GP, why there are massive waiting times if they do manage to get through on the phone.

We need to get this important element of the NHS back to looking at patient’s needs, once the patient gets past the barriers their care is second to none, it’s getting them in to that face-to-face consultation, actually talking to someone that knows them and can help them decide on the best way to deal with whatever ails them. Patients are not numbers on a spread sheet, our doctors and nurses know that but the senior levels in the NHS are still struggling to understand that.

The NHS is unique in its founding principles, and we need to now work together as a community to help the GP’s and Health Centres to reconnect with their patients (Us), not easy I grant you, but it will be worth the effort!

Kind regards

Councillor Nick Churchill
Member Champion for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Harlow District Council

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3 Comments for Letter to Editor: Getting to see your Harlow GP: Blame the bureaucrats:

2021-09-30 08:14:21

England is very low in the European league table for numbers of GPs per population. GPs are under huge pressure and working long hours, as are many NHS staff. Underfunding of the NHS is the problem, don't blame the doctors.

Bob Morgan
2021-09-30 16:19:33

I completely agree with the Nick Churchill's assessment. Getting a face to face meeting a GP is currently impossible. The local practice is justifying the lack of face to face appointments by hiding behind "government covid guidelines" - which is not true. Patients can get face to face appointments in other areas. I am also sick of the length of time taken to call the GP practice - to hear a long rambling message followed by many minutes of musak and a patient count down. I then feel I have to allow the receptionist to triage my issues and decide if it merits a call with a GP, and then if a GP does call there is no time given to expect the call and a day can be wasted waiting for the call, which on two occasions now I have missed and I have to start the whole process again. I am sure my experience is not unique. The service we are getting currently is just not acceptable. Andy is not completely correct, GPs run their practices as businesses, they can pick and choose their hours and the amount of work they wish to dedicate to the NHS and to private work. They get paid for the work they do and - when it comes to QOF targets - and work they don't do. Ever been asked about your smoking habits or weight loss issues? whether you answer yes or no it still meets a tick box target and generates cash for the clinic as advice has been given. They might even tick the boxes whether they have asked or not.

Jane dove
2021-10-01 11:41:32

I agree with Bob Morgan I to have the same problems since my GP merged with lister house it now may hem every time you call you get lister house and not my surgery Barbra castle you stuck waiting on phone and end up missing call backs and having to talk to gps you have never met over phone it's so bad that in my GP surgery our fantastic doctors are leaving or have left even our nurse these gps have known me and my family for years and I have my daughter with mental health and autism who does not cope well with change or people she was comfortable with our GP service and doctors now I will struggle to get her to gp to see a doctor she don't know and also we can't even get in to see face to face GP if I want a appointment with my surgery I have to go in and book and then it's a call back it's impossible I'm classed as very vulnerable and I'm disabled the situation is disgusting

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