Two Richmondshire medical practices have published an open letter to patients explaining the practical impact of years of under-funding at a time when demand is continuing to rise.
Leyburn and Catterick Garrison-based Harewood medical practices are asking patients to consider the enormous pressures surgeries are under when booking an appointment and to think about appropriate alternatives, such as self-care and pharmacist advice.
The letter explains that almost 18,000 extra appointments are needed each year in Leyburn and 22,500 at the Harewood practice in Catterick compared to ten years ago.
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The practice points out that a face to consultation can generate as much as two hours’ work for the doctor or nurse on some occasions.
Practice bosses say prescriptions alone account for a significant amount of that time.
The practices issue around 2,700 prescriptions per week and each prescription is checked and signed off by a doctor or a nurse prescriber.
At the same time that workload has increased, average funding for general practice has decreased in real terms by between 15 per cent and 20 per cent over the last ten years, the practices say.
To try to deal with the increase in demand within funding limits, the practice has introduced telephone triage which allows GPs to prioritise calls for appointments within two working days.
While that has been effective, it now means that by 10.30am in the morning the list of telephone triage calls can easily reach 35 or more at Leyburn and 45 at Harewood practice.
Recently Harewood practice received a total of 519 telephone calls in just one day.
Practice Manager Stephen Brown said: “We have tried to manage our workload by increasing the nurse-led chronic disease clinics that we hold and by introducing telephone consultations.
“Nevertheless our GPs now work an average 12 hour day to keep on top of appointment demand and the background and administration work that goes with that.
“We have written this letter to our patients in the hope that they will understand the extent of the pressure we are facing, especially as the winter draws on, and make more use of the valuable service that local pharmacies provide in terms of advice about coughs, colds and other minor ailments.”