Graphic: Doctors warn of longer waiting times for GP appointments in Norfolk and Suffolk

GPs are warning that waiting times could get longer because of a recruitment crisis. GPs are warning that waiting times could get longer because of a recruitment crisis.

Adam Gretton Health correspondent adam.gretton@archant.co.uk
Monday, September 1, 2014
4:05 PM

Senior doctors have warned patients to expect more delays after new figures revealed that almost a sixth of Norfolk and Suffolk residents have to wait more than a week for a GP appointment.

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Labour pledge on GP waiting times

There is no set NHS target for a maximum waiting time for new GP appointments. Doctors have been told to prioritise patients based on their clinical need.

However, Labour have pledged to introduce a 48 hour maximum wait, if they win the next general election.

The party’s two Labour candidates in Norwich will be campaigning on the issue over the coming months ahead of the May 2015 vote. They said 40pc of Norwich patients do not get to see their preferred doctor and more than 28,000 patients in Norwich have to wait more than a week for an appointment.

Labour has pledged to invest £100m in GP surgeries by scrapping NHS bureaucracy on market rules.

Clive Lewis, prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich South, said: “With staff being cut and waiting lists going up, its also getting harder and harder for the people of Norwich to see their GP. If a Labour government is elected in nine months time, we would move quick to guarantee a 48 hour maximum waiting time to see your GP, and we’ll reverse the privatisation and profiteering of our NHS.”

Jess Asato, prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, added: “In Norwich more than 28,000 people have to wait for longer than a week to see their GP. This is a total failure by this Tory-led government.”

Increasing workloads, caused by an ageing population, and an ongoing recruitment “crisis” will mean that more people will have to wait more than seven days to see their family doctor, GPs in Norfolk and Waveney said.

The warning comes after the results of NHS England’s GP patient survey revealed that 14.46pc of people in Norfolk and Suffolk - higher than the national average - said they had to wait more than a week for an appointment.

However, despite the figure, less than 7pc of people who took part in the national survey in East Anglia said they would not recommend their GP to friends and family.

Cracks appearing

Cracks began appearing in Norfolk’s primary care system earlier this year after a surgery announced plans to de-register 1,500 patients from its list.

Officials from Watton Medical Practice said they had no choice but to redraw their catchment area because it had not been able to fill two GP vacancies.

The decision to take 1,500 people off the register put added pressure on the patient lists of neighbouring surgeries in East Harling, Kenninghall, Hingham, Shipdham and Swaffham.

The government announced in April that an extra £50m would be made available from the GP Access Fund to allow surgeries to open seven days a week and for longer hours.

However, when the Department of Health announced the more than 1,000 successful bidders for the money, not one GP practice in Norfolk, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire was on the list.

Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, said: “GPs care deeply about our patients and are frustrated by the constraints that undermine our ability to do the best for them.”

“We are calling for long-term, sustainable investment in the things that will really make a difference – more GPs, more practice staff and fit for purpose GP buildings so we can deliver the care our patients deserve.”

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Local GPs warned that longer waits for appointments would only get worse because of dozens of unfilled vacancies in Norfolk and Waveney. The England average for GP waits more than a week is 13.66pc, according to the 2013/14 GP patient survey.

Tim Morton, chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Council and a partner at Beccles Medical Practice, said a Labour policy to introduce a 48 hour maximum waiting time to see a GP was “completely unrealistic.”

“We have a primary care service in crisis with huge difficulties recruiting, rising patient lists and significant workload . If there are not enough GPs to go around with increasing work loads from secondary care and increasing elderly population, it is important GPs prioritise their clinical work to those with the most need first. That may result in some people waiting a little longer than they would like.”

“There are increased number of practices in serious problems. If there is a lack of GPs then waiting times will continue to rise. It is a nationwide problem - it is not just Norfolk. Most GPs go into the profession to provide as good as service as humanly possible, but we are only human and most GPs are working 11 to 12 hour days,” he said.

There are 120 practices in Norfolk and Waveney and around half of 56 GP vacancies have not been filled since the start of the year.

Officials from the British Medical Association have called on the government to invest more in primary care after the GP share of the NHS budget reduced from 10.6pc to 8.5pc over the last five years.

A spokesman for NHS England in East Anglia said: “The demand for GP services has increased over the past few years and in order to support patients’ needs many practices have adjusted their approach to offering appointments. Appointments need to be made on the basis of clinical need and the GP practice will assess this with each patient individually.”

“There is more work to be done in the future to enable GP practices to remain the first point of contact for patients despite the increase in demand and, along with CCGs and NHS England, GP practices are considering how they can do this.”

“Overall, GP patient satisfaction remains high. In East Anglia, 88 per cent of patients said their overall experience of GP services was good.”

20 comments

  • Personally like many things in the public sector it is down to how efficient your surgery is run. You can now book online ahead for an appointment with your own doctor. Get repeat prescriptions on line. None of which we used to be able to do. I phoned in at 8 this morning for an appointment with my usual doctor. Saw him 3 hours later. Straight down to the chemists and within 5 minutes had a pack of pills in my hand. Then got a follow up call from a surgery nurse who made an appointment to see her over the phone plus arrangements for my flu jab. As far as I am concerned I couldn`t ask for better. Nor is this a one off. We really don`t know how well we are off at times.

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    BG

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • Great Comment piece in Monday's paper which was not part of the online piece. The 'worried well' need to be guided to other resources allowing GP's to deal with really sick patients. Charging for appointments missed, akin to NHS Dentists, would cut missed appointments drastically, and increase available capacity at a stroke. Also good to see the debate aired on BBC TV One Show; real care and dedication from those GP's left in the system came through so strongly. The country needs to value what we have as a local personal healthcare system, before it is too late - it's in all our hands!

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    walkerman1009

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • Anyone who believes that the NHS is sustainable in its present guise is in complete denial about the facts. Without introducing charges it is unsustainable and already near a point of collapse. Indeed without a government imposed wage freeze on staff wages it would now have been unable to function. Regrettably, without a credible way of raising revenue the NHS will continue to see further restrictions on how it operates and the number of patients it can deal with. The unpalatable truth is increasing demand, an ageing population and increasingly sophisticated treatments and drugs mean it has to change and soon. Politicians are aware that telling the truth costs votes but the truth is that either taxes go up substantially or cuts to other services continue, but at an accelerated rate, in order to keep the NHS functioning. The problem of throwing extra money at the NHS is it doesn't reduce demand, it doesn't reduce bureaucracy and it doesn't dissuade abuse. Targeted charges DO dissuade abuse. They DO reduce unnecessary demand and they DO help curtail bureaucracy. Until people have to pay something to see their GP,until have to pay for missed appointments and they have to pay something towards their treatment the NHS will continue its inevitable slide towards its end.

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    Bad Form

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • Sugarbeet is spot on that things have worsened after the changes over the last couple of years, but it is also a question of our expectations. There is no need to see a GP for many things; other helathcare professionals may be more appropriate. Like anything, capacity is limited, and once GP appointments are gone, they are gone. Message has to be loud and clear; if you do not crucially need to see a GP, look at other options such as 111NHS website or a Pharmacist. If you have a GP appointment booked, please use it as otherwise you are being selfish to other patients. If we treat GP appointments as the valuable commodity that they are, then there will be enough for when we really do need an appointment, even with extra pressures of the older population and less trainees interested in becoming a GP because of the workloadreward balance being worse than other options.

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    walkerman1009

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • GP practices are being strangled by the "reforms" of the 2012 Health & Social Care Act, yet according to some of the contributors to this esteemed publication it's all the fault of immigrants. I suggest you go take a look at the GPs' online trade magazine (pulsetoday.co.uk) to see what they're saying.

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    Sugarbeet

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • NI payments have never worked on the basis of how much you payed in relating to what you get out. If you are eligible and pay into the system you are entitled to health care. That is how the system has always worked. Net migration accounts for a tiny percentage of the UK population as a whole and as has already been pointed out many people coming into the UK work for the NHS, included the much needed GP's. The problem is that we all need to pay more for the system we have come to expect. That is a modern sophisticated health service. Another aspect I don't understand is why many older people fail to realise that the majority of people arriving in this country are younger people who are the ones able to fund the future of the health system by being hard working diligent citizens. The fast majority of which are just that. Immigration is a fact of life for the whole world and blaming are problems on this is both incorrect and more importantly pointless. Yes we do have a problem with appointment waiting times and the recruitment and training of GP's but we need solutions not politically motivated rants which do nothing whatever to solve the issue.

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    Nick

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • Ryan, don't say anyone, we have to account for those below like Larson, his ilk must be benefiting in some way from it to want it.

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    WTH

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • Ryan, don't say anyone, we have to account for those below like Larson, his ilk must be benefiting in some way from it to want it.

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    WTH

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • Not rocket science, if we let in 420,000 eu members a year, 200,000+ non-EU migrants a year and 250,000 illegals..It's no wonder are services are under pressure, but at least our government have the foresight to account for this...Oh wait, they are clueless, and can only think a max of four years ahead til the next gravy boat comes along.

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    WTH

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • The NHS used to work by paying into over a lifetime and using the services mainly in later life , there are now millions of people using it who have contributed nothing to it

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    blister

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • Anyone can see that the population of this country is rising very fast which must put huge pressure on the health service and is why benefits must be cut to pay for it and we must build many more roads, airports , schools , housing etc to cope with demand and we must all learn to be much more patient when waiting for treatment from our NHS

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    Ryan Bure

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • Certainly at my city NHS surgery there are usually more non English speaking patients which must take much longer to process and treat. Plus many people who arrive in the country have serious medical problems that need treating, I guess we must all wait a bit longer.

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    bob tob

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • Larson, the fact is that the population in England is increasing rapidly, no matter what the cause. Hence the pressure on housing, schools and the health service to name but three. According to the governments own figures we have just seen almost 250,000 net immigration and that's without illegal immigration. Of course it is going to create problems in what I think is the most densely populated country in Europe.

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    andy

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • A week???.... In my village practice, we cannot see a doctor for a generic appointment for nearly 4 weeks, oh and our school is bursting at the seams too, yet more new houses are being built here. My village is fast becoming a town and I am longing to move out and away from this island!

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    luanmapo

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • " Many refugees......" blah blah blah. Give it a rest John , take the day off. Nothing to do with immigrants as you know....ageing population and no one wants to be a GP any more. The only migrants at my local surgery are the doctors....doing a splendid job under difficult circumstances.

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    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • GP practices. Will they soon be a nostalgic a memory from the past, replaced by Virgin Health Care, Serco, and assorted US "healthcare providers"? They will if the privatisation of the NHS continues down it's current path. Let's hope that Clive Lewis's assertion that if elected Labour will reverse the privatisation and profiteering of our NHS.

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    Sugarbeet

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • I phoned my practice this morning and was lucky enough to get through after several attempts at about 8:10. After listening to recorded messages for almost 10 minutes, I was told there were no doctors appointments. That's it!! Not phone back tomorrow. Hopefully the MRI scan that I had a couple of weeks ago will not identify anything too serious.

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    andy

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • What is classed as waiting more than a week? I recently had to wait a month to see my doctor at a Norwich surgery.

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    gerry mitson

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • The area is sadly now lacking the infrastructure to cope with the number of people who reside here and it's getting worse, day by day.

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    Catton Man

    Monday, September 1, 2014

  • Many refugees, asylum seekers and migrants arrive in this country with serious health problems , it is therefore to be expected that more demand will be placed on our health services, we will all have to be much more tolerant and be prepared to wait our turn for treatment which will obviously take longer.

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    blister

    Monday, September 1, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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