The Crisis in NHS Primary Care

Hannah Dewhirst

Following a wave of negative media attacks against GPs this autumn, EveryDoctor held this briefing to share the facts and set the record straight.

On the 13th of October we ran an online briefing for MPs, the press and the public on the Crisis in NHS Primary Care. 37 MPs, staffers and journalists came along to hear from our Chief Executive Dr Julia Patterson, and three frontline GPs and EveryDoctor Members; Drs Emily Ball, Alison Hobbs and David Mark Thornton. You can watch the full recording of the briefing on our YouTube channel here

Attendees heard a raft of facts and statistics, evidencing the very real pressures our system of primary care currently faces - which COVID-19 has not created, but merely exacerbated. 

Prior to the pandemic in 2019, the UK only had 76 GPs per 100,000 people. In comparison Cyprus had 105, Belgium 115, and Portugal 244 GPs per 100,000 people in 2018. All while the total number of registered surgery patients has been climbing year on year; from 59.2 million in August 2018, to over 61 million in August this year. Far from closing their doors, GPs have risen to meet this growing challenge. 

Surgeries carried out a quarter of a million more appointments in the third week of August 2021 compared to the same week in 2019 - and in England, GPs also played an instrumental role setting up the first vaccination centres - for which they received no initial assistance with additional staff funding. And contrary to much of what’s been splashed on the pages of some national newspapers, levels of patient satisfaction with the type of appointment offered have actually increased; from 74% in July 2019 to 82% this summer. 

We live-streamed the event on Facebook and tweeted alongside it too, sharing some of the most pertinent points. 

Our three GP speakers shared their personal experiences of the daily pressures their surgeries are under. Dr Emily Ball spoke about the numerous cases of awful abuse her surgery staff have had to withstand this year, and which the local police have failed to take seriously. Dr Alison Hobbs used her previous Monday as an example to highlight a typical day in the life of a GP at the moment - with a waiting list of 298 patients - and Dr David Mark Thornton explained how GPs use a range of services to ensure that every patient gets the right treatment they need. 

We ran this briefing because we know that rather than “hiding behind their phones”, surgery staff have been working harder than ever before - including continuing to offer face-to-face appointments when needed - under exceptionally difficult circumstances. And we won’t let NHS staff be scapegoated for problems they had no part in creating, or bullied by inaccurate reporting which in some cases have left doctors in tears

We need more GPs. We are all in agreement on that. The government needs to take responsibility, supporting existing staff and training and recruiting more doctors, in order to safeguard our patients. Running parliamentary briefings, producing documents, and sharing stories from the NHS frontline like we did last week is exactly what EveryDoctor was founded to do. Because standing up for NHS staff is a vital part of our fight for a better NHS for all staff and patients.  

We’re happy to share the accompanying briefing document with any parliamentary or press office, as well as EveryDoctor Members and Supporters. Please get in touch with us via campaigns@everydoctor.org.uk to receive a copy, or head here beforehand to join EveryDoctor as a Member or Supporter today. 

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