New report highlights difficulties of accessing Rotherham GP services

Councillors are calling on GPs and the NHS to redouble their efforts to make it easier for local residents to see their doctor after a new Scrutiny report – Chaired by Wickersley councillor Emma Hoddinott – drew together information about the problems people are having seeing their GP, and pointed out that these could get much worse.

At the moment:

  • A quarter of Rotherham residents report being unable to get an appointment when they first contact the surgery, with one in ten patients saying they’ve not been able to get an appointment at all.
  • One in six patients who can’t get an appointment go on to visit either A&E or the Walk In Centre.

The councillors point out that Rotherham has a large number of GPs and nurses nearing retirement, whilst the government’s changes to GP funding and contracts could make it harder for practices to recruit new doctors and meet the needs of communities like Rotherham which have particular health-related problems. Over the last few years, the share of the NHS budget spent on General Practice has been falling.

These issues could be compounded by the fact that whilst the population of Rotherham is expected to grow by 4% by 2021, the number of residents aged 85 and over is expected to grow by 27%, requiring services such as GPs to meet the demand of an increasing number of elderly residents.

The news isn’t all bad – Rotherham’s performance is broadly in line with national averages, and 4 out of 5 patients say that their surgery is open at convenient times. However, patients at different practices clearly have very different experiences; the number of patients waiting more than a week for an appointment ranges from none at all at some surgeries, all the way up to 49%.

Emma told the media; “It is vital that we have an adequate number of GPs and other health care professionals to meet growing demand. It is also important that GP practices have effective appointment systems and the right skills mix in their staff teams. Patient expectations and preferences are changing, and it is a question of striking a balance between clinical need, patient expectations and convenient access. Practices need to work with their patients to develop systems that work well.”

The next Labour government is committed to ensuring that everyone will be able to book an appointment with their GP within 48 hours.

You can read the report in full by clicking here.

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