MP for Beverley and Holderness, Graham Stuart has asked about Government support for beleaguered GP services in his constituency following complaints from local residents about long waits and a lack of face-to-face appointments.
Waiting times for appointments have increased across the country as a result of the measures brought in to slow the spread of Covid-19 coupled with an increased demand for healthcare services. Delays to routine hospital appointments and elective surgeries have also added extra pressure to GP surgeries as they manage patients in the community.
The pressure came to a head towards the end of last year, with several protests taking place about the perceived lack of service offered by local practices like Holderness Health.
The local MP asked Maria Caulfield, the Primary Care & Patient Safety Minister, for details of how local practices could access support from central government, with the Minister apologising after hearing about residents’ experiences.
Graham commented, “Although it’s subsided somewhat since then, towards the end of last year my inbox had complaints from residents having to wait weeks to be seen, or who were having difficulty booking a face-to-face appointment.
“I completely understand my constituents’ frustrations. It’s only right that people should be able to access healthcare when they need it and GPs play a huge part in this.
“I do know that local GPs and nurses have been working their socks off to increase appointments all while being integral to the vaccine rollout at the same time. Holderness Health, for example, have been working hard to boost their recruitment and to expand their clinical space as well, which is something I’ve been assisting with.”
Ms Caulfield, who is still a practising nurse alongside being the Government Minister, also outlined how local practices could access a new Winter Access Fund. The £250 million pot is intended to improve access by increasing the number of appointments available through investing in new technology or hiring locum GPs. The Government already had a target of creating 50 million more appointments a year through increased GP recruitment.
Graham added, “As of Monday, almost 800,000 jabs have gone into people’s arms across the East Riding and surgeries like Holderness Health have played a huge part in that.
“Delivering the accelerated booster programme naturally presents a huge challenge on top of tackling the existing backlog in care and I will always support GP practices at a parliamentary level as much as I can.”
As of November, GPs were seeing around 1.4 million patients every working day, an increase of 6% compared to November 2019 prior to the pandemic. When including vaccination appointments, this becomes a 20% rise compared to November 2019. Holderness Health have recruited an additional six receptionists in an effort to tackle delays for patients on the phone and are continuing to engage with the East Riding Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Property Services on securing extra clinical space to address the backlog.