Relationship between patients and GPs is ‘starting to degrade’ as staff suffer from burnout says Notts GP
A leading Nottinghamshire doctor has spoken out about the ‘distressed’ state of general practice surgeries and says the relationship between patients and professionals is ‘starting to degrade’.
Dr Stephen Shortt, NHS Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group clinical chairman, said some staff are considering their futures in the sector due to the ‘stress, burnout and the unsustainability of the workload’.
He made the comments during a meeting of Nottinghamshire Council’s health scrutiny committee.
He says he sees about 50 patients a day, about half of them face-to-face.
He said: “From the start of the pandemic to current times, the professional-patient relationship has been strong and effective.
“And yet, it is starting to degrade at the present time due to the longevity of the pandemic and frustrations which are now coming to the fore.
“Even before the pandemic, we were already dealing with a system which was struggling.
“The burden on general practice was great to start with and its weaknesses have been amplified by the Covid conditions.
“Currently the state of general practice is it is distressed and struggling, as many other parts of society are.
“Colleagues have found the last 18 months very difficult and there is much stress, burnout and talk of the unsustainability of the workload.
“Colleagues are considering their work-life balance and whether they want to remain in general practice or not.
“General practice is fundamentally vulnerable and the pandemic has revealed that.”
He said that when he hears of patients waiting for 45 minutes in a queue it is ‘deeply embarrassing and unsatisfactory’.
Dr Shortt said he did not want to ‘adopt the mantle of victimhood’ and said many colleagues regard working in the sector as ‘a joy’.
It comes as CCG data, which was given to councillors, shows about one in six people waited 15 days or more to see a doctor across August.
This amounted to 76,224 out of 454,315 appointments or 16.77 per cent – and more than 20,000 patients waited longer than four weeks to see their GP.
In August 2020, 52,736 patients had to wait more than two weeks to see their GP, which equated to 13.21 per cent of appointments.
Coun John Doddy, health and wellbeing board chairman and a doctor at Hickings Lane Medical Centre in Stapleford, also spoke to councillors during the meeting.
He said: “Good communication from practices remains the bedrock of providing that service to patients.
“As we move forward, practices are becoming part of the community. They are looking outside themselves and becoming the bedrock of the locality.
“I do 100 per cent face-to-face consultation. I am not saying it is easy, but it is a sheer pleasure.
“You never pick up anything opportunistically by making a telephone call. There is no doubt that is an area we need to get back to.
“We are in a tremendous challenge at the moment, but we are succeeding because we speak to the patients.
“Seeing patients face-to-face is an honour and a privilege and makes our lives better.”