New figures from NHS England show that 17% of people in South Yorkshire could not get an appointment to see or speak to a GP or nurse the last time they tried. Councillor Ben Miskell has cautioned that “people will die needlessly this winter because they cannot see a GP” as he calls on the government to “get a grip”.
Meanwhile, data from the NHS reveals that in the past year, 2,023,132 GP appointments in the Northeast and Yorkshire were held a month late, as patients struggle to see a GP when they need one.
In June alone, 5513 were held a month late in South Yorkshire.
When the Conservatives entered government in 2010, they scrapped the guarantee of a GP appointment within 48 hours.
Over the twelve years of Conservative government since then, public satisfaction with GP services has fallen by 39 percentage points – from 77 per cent in Labour’s last year in government, to just 38 per cent now, the lowest level since the survey began in 1983.
Data from the NHS also finds that 27% of appointments in South Yorkshire are not held face-to-face.
The Government has admitted it is failing to meet its manifesto pledge to recruit more GPs. Under the Conservatives, the number of GPs is falling, and hundreds of GP practices have closed since the 2019 general election. As a result, many ‘GP appointments’ held today are not with a GP.
A BBC Panorama investigation in June found that unqualified staff at Operose Health practices, the UK’s largest GP chain, are seeing patients without the required supervision, instead of doctors.
Councillor Ruth Milsom, Chair of Sheffield’s Health Scrutiny Committee that oversees NHS services in the city, has expressed deep concern about the precarious state of primary care. The British Medical Council has reported that General Practice has lost the equivalent of 1857 full-time, fully qualified GPs since 2015, meaning that the average GP is now responsible for around 300 more patients. The government’s 2021 Annual GP Worklife Survey reveals that 80% of GPs feel they do not have time to do justice to their job, whilst a third say they are likely to quit patient care within five years.
Cllr Ruth Milsom said: “I find these figures very frightening, but it’s crucial not to lay the blame at GPs’ doors. Chronic underinvestment and mismanagement by the Conservatives has put unbelievable strain on healthcare professionals. It has a direct effect on patients’ health and wellbeing, so primary care is unable to fulfil its objective of keeping people well and out of hospital. GPs are simply not being supported to cater for the needs of their patients.”
Councillor Ben Miskell said: “Every week I hear from concerned residents who are struggling to see a GP because this Government is failing to staff our health service. As a teacher by trade, I see kids missing out on school, because they cannot get an appointment and older people in my ward with health conditions that are worsening because of a lack of access to primary care”.
“People will die needlessly this winter because they cannot see a GP and the government needs to urgently get a grip of the situation. Everyone I speak to in South Yorkshire simply wants the NHS to be given what it needs to see people on time, they aren’t interested in yet more excuses”.