Robert Peston: Many of us have had the experience, I mean I’ve had the experience of ringing up a GP and saying ‘I or a kid of mine has got a problem’ and they can’t see you and they tell you to go to A&E. And that has happened to me (HAS IT?) and It’s also happened to lots of people that I know and one of the reasons the government says that A&Es are under pressure is because that happens too often. That shouldn’t happen should it.
Helen Stokes-Lampard: “You’re right, it shouldn’t happen and it’s a sad reflection of the situation we’re in where we’ve got an underfunded, under resourced service. We haven’t got enough GPs, we haven’t got enough Practice Nurses, we haven’t got an adequately funded social care or hospital system. Let’s be clear, right across the service we’ve got the problem. Obviously GP is my priority, so when it happens that is a reflection of a service that is cut to the bone. We talked about cutting the fat from the system but we’ve gone long beyond that and we’re cutting the muscle. And if you cut the muscle the system just won’t stand up anymore, so we are at a serious crisis point”
Let’s be very clear: Politicians are attacking GPs as they want to reorganise things in ways that are good for them and their supporters but will further damage the NHS and the Patients and Carers that it’s there to serve. The Family Doctor is the best place for you to get care but I think the RCGP needs to be much more careful in how it protects the interests of hard working GPs.
When a Patient or Parent phones a GP practice to get an appointment and a receptionist tells them that because they don’t have any available appointments that the Patient should go to A&E that is not an example of a service that is cut to the bone. This is not something that in 2017 the Chair of the RCGP should be defending. This is an example of a secretary screening Patients and covering her posterior (because by saying ‘go to A&E’ they will avoid getting into any trouble and/or being blamed for any medical errors).
It’s obviously no easy job to go on a political commentary program on a Sunday morning but how would I have liked to have seen Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard answer the question Robert Peston put to her?
Was it a GP or a receptionist that told you to go to A&E because they had no appointments to give you?
YES IT WAS MY GP: If it was a GP no wonder they’re too busy to offer appointments if they’re stuck answering the practice phone. This GP needs to be retrained.
NO IT WAS THE RECEPTIONIST AT THE CLINIC (a much more likely response): Then you have unfortunately experienced what is without doubt the most dangerous interaction in the NHS. The RCGP is doing everything it can in very challenging financial times to help practices modernise and consign this practice to the history books. Receptionists should never be in a position where they have to screen the needs of Patients, because these needs are complex and the nurses don’t have the training or skills required to do it.
Unfortunately the British government is wedded to having the NHS answer telephone calls from people they know nothing about. Successive Governments have – against the advice of the RCGP and in the face of a complete lack of evidence – wasted Billions of limited healthcare funds on broken telephone triage systems that they are told win them votes. The NHSreDirect service for example swallowed up over £100Million per year and it’s legacy of wasting limited healthcare resources continues with the 111 service. Have you seen adverts for that? The buses and tubes that hard working GPs like me take to work are plastered with them! It appears they have a bottomless pit of cash to pay for all the adverts. I suppose the government thinks that these will win it public support and votes but it’s an outrage when funding for GPs continues to be cut and we’re being blamed for not doing more.
Everybody in this studio today has a Smartphone right? It’s 2017 and we don’t just not ring Taxis anymore, most of us don’t even ring friends anymore as we’ll sooner update Facebook or send a text message. When did you last ring Ryanair to book a flight? Would you ever even think of ringing Tesco or Amazon if you wanted to order some shopping?
For most Patients the idea of ringing someone in a non-emergency situation who knows nothing about their health and hoping to get quality care and value for money from the telephone call interaction is more than bizarre. Try ringing your bank and you’ll realise that the first thing they will ask you is for your name and account details because it’s ridiculous to be just talking with someone when there’s a computer record that can be connected up that details what’s happening and enables you to not just advise but take actions there and then. The Government has spent billions on IT systems and these ensure your medical records are available to your GP so it should be obvious to government that they need to support and not undermine these GPs so that they can innovate and get value from their investments.
The RCGP has members who are pioneers in working with Patients and Carers to safely manage demand and provide care without trying to do everything within the walls of an office visit. GPs like Dr Amir Hannan have 95% of their pregnant Patients having access and understanding of their own electronic records. Patients registered with GPs like Dr Rupert Bankart can grab their phone and share their concerns with their GP 7 days a week and let the GP that knows them and has their medical records decide what the best action they should take next. We need to stop trying to alienate the public from their GP and redeploy the resources being wasted on large and ineffective politically motivated government initiatives so that trusted family Doctors can do more with the accurate medical records they maintain for their Patients and continue to provide the unrivalled quality of care that has made the NHS the envy of the world”
How would you answer the question?