DR MAX PEMBERTON:  As the GP crisis  is laid bare... why even I went private ... trends now

DR MAX PEMBERTON:  As the GP crisis  is laid bare... why even I went private ... trends now

A couple of weekends ago I was working as the on-call psychiatrist in my local A&E. In those 12 hours I saw for myself the appalling and tragic repercussions of patients being unable to see their GPs.

It was utter chaos. There were people who were frightened and in pain, many with conditions that should have been dealt with by their GPs weeks earlier, but which had now escalated.

Perhaps the saddest was a woman brought in by her partner after a suicide attempt. She had been suffering acute anxiety for some time after a devastating bereavement but simply could not get a GP appointment.

In desperation, her partner went to the GP surgery in person and a Physician Associate – someone who has some medical training, but is not a doctor – called her and referred her to a mental health crisis team, but for some reason the team never turned up.

In despair, this distraught woman tried to kill herself and very nearly succeeded. Had she been seen by her GP promptly, it is possible that she and her partner would not have suffered the trauma of her near death. She would not have been in a hospital bed, being looked after for several hours by me, nor been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Getting an appointment to actually see a doctor can involve waits as long as a month

Getting an appointment to actually see a doctor can involve waits as long as a month

The emergency treatment and the ongoing care that she will now need cost the NHS many times more than a GP appointment would have done.

Sadly, this situation is something I, and other medical professionals, now see all the time. Having ready access to a family doctor, who knew you and your history, whether you were a worrier or someone who only asked for help when truly desperate, was once the norm.

But new figures show that it is now the exception. In many areas, this valuable continuity of care has been lost, and it is all but impossible to see a doctor at all within a week, let alone the same one.

In some areas, one in ten patients are waiting more than a month. These figures are 38 per cent worse than last year, and the trajectory is only heading one way.

A

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