It is a story of which many are familiar with all across the United Kingdom. The NHS is creaking under the pressure. Just today, another headline shows how from 6.30 in the morning, would be patients queue outside their local doctor’s surgery, specifically the Sunbury Health Center in Surrey; only to be told they will receive a phone call (which is really helpful when diagnosing somebody’s ear infection) or will get an appointment in two weeks time. But for one of the most “up together countries in the world, how is our health care system failing so badly?
Originally designed for 6,000 patients, it now serves nearly 19,000. Residents say the extra demand is a consequent result of new housing developments appearing in already over populated areas while few improvements have been made to health services in the area.
The surgery has 12 GPs, four of them recruited in the past two years to cope with increased demand, and hopes to recruit more. As its roll has increased, so has the NHS money flowing in – surgeries are paid £73.56 per patient, according to GP magazine Pulse.
But patients at Sunbury Health Centre say the phone is continuously engaged so it is ‘impossible’ to ring for an appointment. If they do manage to book by phone, they face a wait of up to two weeks to see a doctor, this is a story that most people can identify with; especially when said G.Ps leave their receptionists to assess whether or not a patient needs an appointment, when they do not have any medical training. If patients or families of patients are unable to get through to their local GPs on the phone, they are left with the terrible task of taking themselves out into the cold and into the GPs surgery, where inevitably they are then spreading any infections they have to other vulnerable people. But especially for more vulnerable patients, if they were to stay inside, they may not realize they are suffering from a condition that could turn fatal.
NHS England said: ‘We are aware of the challenges faced by Sunbury Health Centre and we are working closely with the practice to support them.’
Dr Maureen Baker, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘Every patient should be able to see their family doctor when they need to. Unfortunately, what we are seeing now is a sad consequence of the desperate shortage of GPs in many parts of the country.’
Some patients are bypassing GP surgeries to go to A&E, putting huge pressure on the emergency services. Last month Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted taking his children to A&E over a weekend because he didn’t want to wait for a GP appointment.
A Conservative health spokesman said: ‘Eighty-five per cent of patients say they can get access to a GP quickly, but we know services are under pressure – that’s why a future Conservative government would guarantee seven-day access for everyone by 2020.’
The problem is too, with an overstretched health system complete with overstretched staff, should the government be really surprised when problems arise? Such as the tragic case of the young mother who walked out of hospital with her newborn baby girl to their deaths. This same young woman was caught on camera walking past “qualified nurses” who did not pay her any attention; despite the fact this poor woman has been known to suffer from mental health problems. A lot of hospitals and doctors surgeries are also finding the fact that many of their staff are not as qualified as they actually appear on paper. Whilst yes, they may have gotten a diploma in health and social care, the employer has not discovered that the colleges in a bid to be seen to be passing students just marks the students off as passed, and then letting them loose on vulnerable patients; knowing the “newly qualified” staff do not have the maturity or the actual knowledge they need to practice in the workplace.
As for those who do have the actual knowledge and maturity, they are overstretched, working hours they cannot realistically manage which does regrettably lead to mistakes. But instead of trying to fix the problem, the government insists on smoothing over the lies and problems. Will things ever change?