Sheffield GP writes open letter to admitting doctors are ‘overwhelmed’ by demand

A Sheffield GP has written an open letter to patients admitting that doctors are ‘overwhelmed’ by demand and explaining why it can be difficult to get an appointment.

By Claire Lewis
Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 7:17 am

In a post on Birley Health Centre’s Facebook page, Dr Ben Allen said he wanted to offer an ‘apology and explanation’ to those disappointed with the service offered now or who may be in the future.

He said: “At times you may have experienced GPs being hard to get hold of or felt not listened to when you do. You may feel not taken seriously or feel 'fobbed off'.

“I can't imagine what it must be like if you're ill or worried. It is understandable to feel angry. I'm sorry if this has happened to you.

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A Sheffield GP has written a Facebook posts to patients explaining why doctors can be difficult to get hold of

“The cause is something that neither patients or GPs are in control of, but it is eroding the relationship between us nationally. GPs are overwhelmed by patient 'demand' and patients are angry about our service.

“What we are expected to achieve has increased far beyond funding and staffing, year on year, for well over a decade. With medical advancements, giving quality care becomes far more complex, people live longer with multiple conditions and medications, and GP workload becomes exponentially more challenging. Hospital work shifts to GPs without funding. Each tiny change drains more time.”

He added: “Work in GP surgeries may not be how you imagine. In terms of communication and decision making, it is far more intense and frantic than my experience of hospital. For the money A&E receives for two patients, we're expected to offer you unlimited access all year – around 42p per person per day.

“The effects of this feels as devastating to us as it does to you. Most GPs became doctors because we care. And every day we are powerless to avoid communicating that we don't. Patients who used to adore their GP, now just feel they are an inconvenience and conclude we don't care anymore. It's so sad.”

He said the pressure could be eased by more people using the 111 telephone service or speaking to a pharmacist before automatically trying to make a GP appointment.

Dr Allen said: “Every day, we need to divide our time between the needs of all our patients. Instead of the quality, understanding, face to face conversation we would all prefer, we may need our reception to pass on messages or direct you to other services or non GP staff. This creates time for us to spend those who need us most, which I know may feel unsatisfactory when your need is genuine too.

“If you feel let down, it may be reasonable to feel angry, but please remain respectful to staff. Abuse is a now a daily reality. Many of us can't do a better job than we're doing.

“It may get worse yet. The most important thing is that I want us not to blame or shame one another as most patients and doctors are doing the best they can in challenging times.”

He said it is a national issue.

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