Patrick Christys: Patients aren't safe at GP surgeries

'GPs seem very quick to play the pity card. In reality it's the patients I feel more sorry for'

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Patients aren’t safe at GP surgeries.

This is because of a lack of time GPs spend with patients, misdiagnoses and administrative issues.

A recent poll of 1,395 GPs found only 13 percent said their practice was safe for patients all the time. Meanwhile, 85 percent expressed concerns about patient safety, with 2 percent saying patients were “rarely” safe, 22 percent saying they were safe “some of the time” and 61 percent saying they were safe “most of the time”.

It’s concerning stuff.

Apparently, GPs are so overworked that they will end up making the wrong decision and patients will suffer as a result.

I just don’t really buy into that GP narrative. They claim staff shortages are the problem – i.e., we need more GPs. But what I think people will find interesting is that former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had pledged an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020, but claims he missed that target because more retired early than joined.

So, in essence, the money is so good as a GP that they are able to check out early and put their feet up.

What age are you going to be able to retire? Does your job pay you enough to put loads of money away in a gold-plated pension?

We all know that there is a huge backlog in the NHS, waiting lists are at record levels and are set to increase. In fact, it’s predicted that in a couple of years' time we could have almost a fifth of our population on a waiting list.

There have been 750,000 missed cancer referrals, people spending their life savings, paying to go private for routine operations.

At the same time, figures from NHS Digital show GPs earn an average of £98,000.

There are also 7,447 GPs with incomes of £100,000 to £199,999.

I’m all for people being well paid, don’t get me wrong, but when one of the reasons we have a GP shortage is because they’re so well paid that they can retire young, then I suggest other GPs don’t have too much of a leg to stand on when it comes to complaining about the shortage of doctors!

We desperately need to clear this backlog in our NHS and one way to do that is to make GPs practices open at weekends. The government is now forcing them to open from 9-5pm on a Saturday. This is common sense – there has to be more time available for patients to get appointments. How have GPs reacted? They’ve said they’re ‘bitterly disappointed’ and it would ‘demolish their spirits’ and ‘devalue their goodwill’…goodwill? I don’t recall there being too much goodwill involved in misdiagnosing people over FaceTime instead of seeing them in person.

Also, there’s a little bit of a manipulation of the figures going on here in terms of GP workload – Apparently the total appointments delivered in general practice last year was 367 million - the highest ever and 17 percent higher than for 2019 before the pandemic happened.

But if you dig a bit deeper you realise that a total of 29.1 million appointments happened in general practice in December of which 3.9 million were Covid vaccinations.

GP practices will receive £15 for each jab given from Monday to Saturday – up from £12.58 so far in the programme – and £20 for Sunday and Bank Holiday vaccinations

So it would appear that GPs are taking time out of patient appointments to administer vaccines, for which they are paid handsomely.

GPs seem very quick to play the pity card, in reality it’s the patients I feel more sorry for. Patients who are probably on a lot less money than their doctor, struggling to get an appointment or who are misdiagnosed, only to be told it can’t possibly be the doctor’s fault.

Bear in mind that GPs have a powerful union behind them, I think it’s time someone stood up for patients.