Nursing in Practice Autumn 2021 (issue 121) - Page 22

22 COMMENT

GP bashing must stop and practices given credit for fast-tracking the future of healthcare

The media and public are impatient to re-open general practice but some of the technological advances achieved in lockdown are here to stay , writes Marilyn Eveleigh
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here is a palpable national urge to return to ‘ normal ’ now the pandemic vaccination programme has worked its magic . Having emerged from lockdown , there are fresh perspectives and new expectations of general practice .
Yet we hear increasingly loud complaints that GP services are not returning to normal rapidly enough . Patients report not having seen a doctor for 18 months , still needing to call their practice at 8am daily to secure an appointment weeks ahead and being blocked by rigid receptionists or fi rmly closed doors . Latest fi gures show face-to-face appointments hovering at 57 %, well down on pre-pandemic levels .
Virtual consultations were initially seen as a safe , pragmatic response , with practices incentivised to develop the service . But now NHS England has formally requested practices to resume surgery appointments . Patients unable or unwilling to consult online risk delays , missed warning signs and overdue interventions . Campaign and charity groups have warned health secretary Sajid Javid that the not-so-techy elderly are getting a second-class GP service .
Although many practices are fully functioning , others are accused of still playing the Covid card . As one newspaper asked , if hairdressers and pubs are back in business , why not surgeries ? The media highlights that GPs are in short supply , too many are part-time and that practices are choosing virtual rather than in-person consultations .
The public ’ s customary high regard for general practice is being eroded by adverse press . This situation is demoralising for our GP colleagues and for already stretched surgery teams who have dramatically modifi ed their practice . Yes , there is a shortage of GPs and nurses , but those in post report low job satisfaction and are exhausted by ever-increasing demand , impatience and abuse by patients with unrealistic expectations . That is concerning .
After all , surgeries undertook millions of face-to-face contacts to make the vaccination programme an outstanding success . Unfortunately , achievement of childhood vaccinations and cytology targets is considerably lower , although this could be a consequence of surgery safeguards or patient anxiety and choice .
But it also must be noted that in response to the crisis , health services moved quickly to adopt technology as a way to maintain patient services , with telephone triage , e-consultations , apps and Track and Trace becoming mainstream for many . We embraced IT innovations that joined us together when we had to stay apart .
Virtual consultations monitoring patients with long-term conditions has been a major IT and primary care achievement . Some patients like this more than others but many of the changes are here to stay . GP bashing is unwarranted ; practices should be credited with adapting to the pandemic and in doing so changing healthcare delivery forever .
The public ’ s customary high regard for general practice is being eroded by adverse press
Marilyn Eveleigh is a nurse adviser and independent trainer in East Sussex nursinginpractice . com Autumn 2021