GPs are struggling to cope with an increase in demand for services, two senior doctors in Greater Manchester have warned.
Doctors say appointment requests have increased again as lockdown measures are relaxed across the country.
A shortage of general practitioners, a backlog of patients awaiting hospital referrals and the pressure to administer the Covid-19 vaccination program are pushing many doctors to the point of exhaustion, a general practitioner from Stockport has said.
Dr Siobhan Brennan, who worked as a general practitioner for fourteen years, says colleagues’ morale is at its lowest after more than a year of “fighting fires”.
“We’re drowning right now,” says Marple-based Dr Brennan.
“We try to go about our usual daily tasks treating people with long term health problems and on top of that we have had the immunization schedule to complete.
“Recently the demand has increased again. I actually can’t remember the last time I had an empty date.
“Burnout is becoming a very real problem.”
Dr Brennan says he has noticed a change in attitude towards GPs among patients.
“There seems to be a perception that GP practices were not opened during the pandemic,” she adds.
“I have noticed a lot of vitriol being posted about generalists in the media and by politicians, which seems to be backlashing us as professionals.
“It’s like we’ve gone from being heroes to being villains during this pandemic.
“We have a huge number of patients who are aggressive and abusive towards us, often because their hospital appointments have been delayed.
“Patients seem to think they are entitled to same day appointments when in reality we are fighting fires.
“General practice is on its knees right now.
“I’m an ultra-marathoner and believe me it’s easier to run a 50 mile race than a week in GP right now.”
the British Medical Association (BMA) the number of patients per practice is 22% higher than it was in 2015, but the general practitioner workforce has not increased with this demand.
A recent survey of BMA members found that over 50% of respondents suffered from depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, emotional distress, or some other mental health issue.
Practitioners say the recent surge in demand is not helping.
Dr Bob Mathewson, a general practitioner for over 35 years, acknowledged that the demand for GP services has skyrocketed.
He believes the increase is due to a number of factors.
“You feel that at the end of the lockdown, people’s heads go over the parapet,” says Dr Mathewson.
“There are pent-up illnesses that people fought off during the pandemic, and the other side of things is mental health, which for some people has been made worse by the lockdown.
“Unless you cover these things in enough detail, you don’t know how serious it is or how best to deal with them.
“And on top of those things, we’ve had the immunization program, although it’s coming to an end at the moment.”
Dr Mathewson describes the demand as unprecedented.
“We have six to seven practicing doctors and they have told me about the pressure they are under.
“As a senior associate, I’m in charge of organizing resources, but unfortunately I don’t always have the answers.
“We need to hire more staff and even that’s difficult. We hope that a new doctor will join us in June now that we have cleared all the obstacles, but it will probably not be enough. enormous pressure.
“During a telephone operation, I took 35 calls deemed urgent between 8 am and 2 pm.
“Normally we would process about 15 during that time, so it’s constant without interruption.
“Instead of things taking 10 minutes, they now take 20, because you have to disinfect the room after every visit.
“We can deal with face masks, visors and hand sanitizer, but it’s all the other things that add to our workload.
“It comes to us from all directions; we have more electronic consultations, more e-mails and e-letters in the field from hospitals; more and more people having blood tests expected for 18 months. “
However, Dr Mathewson said the majority of patients understand the pressures the system is facing.
He added, “Our patients have been quite tolerant and understanding throughout it all.
“When we say we can’t refer them to the hospital because of the coronavirus, they always understand the hardships that entails.”