As many of us are aware, billions of pounds – some say £20 billion, enough to build three dozen new general hospitals – of taxpayers money was spent on what I believe was a failed NHS IT system to standardise patient records so that they could be accessed nationwide by health professionals.
With an ageing population the NHS is severely short of money and as Dr Guy Mansford, chief clinical commissioning officer of the Nottingham West Clinical Commissioning Group (13 local medical practices), points out, the share allocated for GP practices is inadequate. Our patient participation group, Friends of Church Street Medical Centre in Eastwood, the longest established group in the county, regularly addresses how this translates at practice level. One of the unintended consequences of this alleged underfunding is to discourage newly qualified doctors from becoming GPs. At present the GP training scheme is 40% under target in Nottinghamshire and in this area we are still better off than some. The Eastwood practices have a higher prevalence of long-term disease than the national average, which means significantly more patient management than is the norm. At Church Street, every effort has been made to ensure that the booking system for patient appointments is as fair as it can be. Naturally, patients and particularly the more elderly amongst us prefer to see a familiar doctor and inevitably there is a greater demand for the longer serving GPs in the practice, which often means a longer wait to see those doctors. Church Street has initiated a system of releasing appointments in blocks. Some are available up to four weeks ahead, while others are only released three days ahead. Some are reserved for release at 8am on the day so that anyone with an urgent problem may see the duty doctor for that day. In addition there are also some telephone consultations available with the duty doctor, provided one telephones soon after 8am. As Friends of Church Street we regularly carry out surveys of patients and access to appointments is always rated as good. These surveys are much larger sample sizes than the national average. Finally, patients can help enormously by only requesting a home visit when absolutely necessary. One home visit denies an appointment to two or three other patients. Also turning up on time for an appointment or having the courtesy to ring and cancel as soon as possible when an appointment is no longer needed helps another patient to have a chance of seeing a doctor.
Chairman, patient participation Group, Church Street Medical Centre, Eastwood.