Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Enfield North, Joan Ryan, is demanding action to tackle a potential GP appointment delays crisis that could threaten the safety of local patients.
Joan Ryan is calling for extra cash to fund more GPs after surveys and a BBC investigation showed that a national shortage of GPs is causing growing appointment delays, with the number of unfilled GP posts quadrupling in the past three years.
In Enfield, whose clinical commissioning group has 167 GPs, the situation is particularly acute. The number of doctors in Enfield is expected to have to rise by half (84) in the next five years to ensure adequate coverage by 2020. That leaves it the 17th worst-hit CCG out of 212 across the country, according to figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
Anecdotal evidence available to Labour in Enfield North suggests that local surgeries are already facing pressure due to lack of staff. The shortage is forcing people to bombard surgeries with calls first thing in the morning to grab one of the limited appointments available.
A ComRes poll of 1,004 GPs across the UK for an edition of the BBC’s Inside Out programme shown on Monday Mar 2 found 56% of doctors expect to retire or leave general practice before 60, due to factors such as long hours and stress.
One patient who had to join an early-morning scramble for appointments told the BBC: “It’s just stressful – from the moment you get up at 8am, you have to be on that phone.”
The RCGP says funding for general practice has fallen to an all-time low of only 8.3% of the NHS budget. It wants general practice to receive 11% of the overall NHS budget by 2017. It also says it expects 67m occasions in 2015 when surgeries are not able to provide an appointment within a week, up from 27m a year ago and representing the fourth year in a row that waiting times have risen.
Joan Ryan is backing calls by the RCGP for more funding to cut appointment waiting times.
Joan Ryan, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Enfield North, said:
“These latest figures on GP shortages and appointment delays are very concerning.
General Practice, along with other healthcare provision, is under real pressure in Enfield – under the Tory-led Government we have seen a number of GP practices close and the downgrading of services at Chase Farm Hospital.
The NHS, both locally and nationally, is going backwards under the Tories and only Labour has a plan to save and transform it. Our NHS Time to Care Fund – an extra £2.5 billion a year, on top of Conservative spending plans – will provide 8,000 more GPs and help to tackle the GP access problems faced in Enfield and throughout the country. In addition, Labour will guarantee a GP appointment within 48 hours, so that local residents can see their doctor when they want to.