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Thousands of Cornish patients wait weeks to see GP

Thousands of Cornish patients wait weeks to see GP

Published by Emma Carton at 6:34am 12th December 2018.

New figures have revealed more than 20,000 patients in Cornwall are waiting at least three weeks to see a GP.

Doctors say it is important to treat patients early to "avoid conditions getting worse".

21,670 people in the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group had to wait until at least 21 days to see a doctor after booking an appointment in October 2018.

That is 12% of all patients according to data from NHS Digital and out of those, 10,100 waited more than a month.

Waiting times worsened in comparison with November 2017, the earliest period for which data is available, when 11% of patients waited for at least three weeks.

doctor
More than 20,000 patients in Cornwall waited at least three weeks to see a doctor after booking an appointment in October

The Patients Association said the impact of the waits "should not be understimated".

"It can be incredibly stressful to face a long wait before getting to see a doctor, quite apart from prolonging the length of time someone has to live with the medical issue that is troubling them.

"All of this is a symptom of an NHS running at boiling point all year round".

Rachel Power, Patients Association

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said it was "frustrating" that patients were having to wait too long to secure a GP appointment:

"We want to deliver timely care to patients, in the early stages of illness, to avoid conditions getting worse, when they can be both more distressing for patients, and more costly for the NHS".

Two in five patients in the Kernow CCG area were able to see a GP the same day the appointment was made.

Experts say the figures include patients who need regular appointments and are likely to be booking ahead.

Nationally, 10% of patients waited on average at least three weeks to see a GP in October 18, compared to 9% in November 2017.

Across England, doctors see around one million patients every day, with Mondays shown to be the busiest day of the week.

doctor
Figures from NHS Digital show over 10,000 patients waited over a month for an appointment after booking in October

What do health bosses in Cornwall say?

"GPs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly work really hard and are all rated as either good or outstanding by the CQC. In addition to core hours of 8:00am to 6.30 pm, GPs in Cornwall already offer an additional 250 hours a week of morning, evening and weekend appointments to ensure people can access primary care services.

"It's also really important to draw a clarification between people requiring same day access to a GP and those patients who can clinically wait.

"This is against a backdrop of a finite workforce, increasing demand and estimates by organisations like the Royal College of General Practitioners that at least 90% of patient contacts are being undertaken by primary care.

"Earlier this year the publication of the National GP Patient Survey showed that people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are happy with their service and our practices overall scored higher on every indicator than the England NHS average:

  • 70% of people were able to see a GP in their surgery 
  • 53% very happy with the convenience of appointments
  • 52% very good experience of GP service

"Healthwatch Cornwall has also surveyed the public about their experience of GP services and one of the conclusions from the survey was that most people valued continuity of service over speed of access.

"GP surgeries are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6.30pm and receptionists can advise alternatives to seeing a doctor - such as an appointment with the nurse, or talking to the pharmacist, or arranging a doctor to call back with advice.

"As part of our commitment to improving people's access to general practice, we are supporting some GP surgeries to offer people greater access to GPs and practice nurses at a time that is best for them in the evening and at weekends and the ability to book appointments online. This is available to every resident living in Cornwall".

Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group

doctor health
NHS Kernow says an online booking system is up and running and some surgeries are offering extra slots out of hours

Where else can I go for treatment?

NHS Kernow added: "You don't always need to visit your GP and there is a range of support available to people who need advice when their practice is closed and they cannot wait until it re-opens".

  1. They can call NHS 111, where they can get advice and if necessary talk to a clinician, who may see them if needed. 
  2. People can also visit the primary care-led care centre at Camborne Redruth community hospital, from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week. No need to book. 
  3. Our pharmacies provide an excellent minor ailment service for conditions they don't need to see a GP about, including conjunctivitis, UTIs; nappy rash; skin conditions. They can also prescribe medication.

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