By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
A leading Nottinghamshire doctor has spoken out about the ‘distressed’ state of general practice surgeries and says the relationship between patients and professionals is “starting to degrade”.
Dr Stephen Shortt, Clinical Chair at the NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said some staff are considering their futures in the sector due to the “stress, burnout and the unsustainability of the workload”.
He made the comments during the Health Scrutiny Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council on November 23.
He says he sees around 50 patients a day, around half of them face-to-face.
He said: “From the start of the pandemic to current times the professional-patient relationship has been strong and effective.
“And yet, it is starting to degrade at the present time through to the longevity of the pandemic and frustrations which are now coming to the fore.
“Even before the pandemic, we were already dealing with a system which was struggling.
“The burden on general practice was great to start with and its weaknesses have been amplified by the covid conditions.
“Currently the state of general practice is that it is distressed and it is struggling as many other parts of society are.
“Colleagues have found the last 18 months very difficult indeed and there is much stress, burnout and there is much talk of the unsustainability of the workload.
“Colleagues are considering their work-life balance and whether they want to remain in general practice or not.
“General practice is fundamentally vulnerable and the pandemic has revealed that.”
He added when he hears of patients waiting for 45 minutes in a queue it is “deeply embarrassing and unsatisfactory”.
Dr Shortt added that he didn’t want to “adopt the mantle of victimhood” and said that many colleagues regard working in the sector as “a joy”.
It comes as data from the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which was given to councillors, shows about one in six people waited 15 days or more to see a doctor across the 31 days in August 2021.
This amounted to 76,224 out of 454,315 appointments or 16.77 per cent – and more than 20,000 patients waited longer than four weeks to see their GP.
In August 2020, 52,736 patients had to wait more than two weeks to see their GP, which equated to 13.21 per cent of appointments.
Councillor Dr John Doddy, Chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Board (Con) and doctor at Hickings Lane Medical Centre in Stapleford, also spoke to councillors during the meeting.
He added: “Good communication from practices remains the bedrock of providing that service to patients.
“As we move forward, practices are becoming part of the community. They are looking outside themselves and becoming the bedrock of the locality.
“I do 100 per cent face-to-face consultation. I am not saying it is easy but it is a sheer pleasure.
“You never pick up anything opportunistically by making a telephone call. There is no doubt that is an area we need to get back to.
“We are in a tremendous challenge at the moment, we are succeeding because we speak to the patients.
“Seeing patients face-to-face is an honour and a privilege and makes our lives better.”