Advance Bookings for GP Consultations Banned in Practices Across the UK
There are currently around 1.4 million Britons who are unable to book an appointment with their GP in advance. In an effort to reduce costs, a new booking system has already been introduced to 150 practices.
Under this system, patients can no longer call their practice and ask for GP appointments on a specific day; they can only call on the day they want to be seen. They must then wait to be called back by a GP, who will listen to their concerns and decide whether an appointment is necessary.
This system has raised concerns and many are questioning whether GPs will be able to make the correct decisions for patients based on phone consultations. There are fears that doctors may fail to pick up on serious illnesses.
“There is no substitute for seeing a patient face to face and deciding whether they need a physical examination,” says Roger Goss of Patient Concern. “There are serious issues here. Older patients are used to seeing doctors in person.”
A number of GPs have pointed out just how important it is to see patients in person in order to give the correct diagnosis and treatment.
“I was surprised, when I was working in out-of-hours, how often what was thought to be quite a minor condition turned out to be quite a significant one and likewise, things that were thought to be terrible over the phone turned out to be minor,” says Des Spence, a GP in Glasgow.
David Haslam, a GP in Watton-at-Stone, Hertfordshire, believes the new system means that patients lose out on having the traditional family doctor: “The heart of general practice is continuity of care by a familiar doctor, meaning we are familiar with patients without having to spend most of the appointment catching up.”
Despite concerns, the new system is set to be instituted in an increasing number of surgeries, thanks to the rising demand for appointments. NHS England has estimated that there are currently 360million GP consultations a year, compared to 303million in 2008 – a figure which is continuously growing, causing practices to struggle with the floods of incoming patients.