‘We are bearing the brunt of saving cash’

Andrew McHugh and two GPs at Horsefair surgery
Andrew McHugh and two GPs at Horsefair surgery

Banbury GPs have warned they are burning out under huge workloads, with no respite in sight.

The family doctors are struggling against all the odds to cope with the needs of an ageing population with multiple, complex health needs.

A group of Banbury surgeries has written to the Banbury Guardian to describe their problems. One admitted this week that, without more funds and an urgent training programme to encourage more doctors into general practice, the current system faces collapse.

Horsefair Surgery GP Liz Dawson, 35, said patients must put pressure on politicians to fund the service properly.

She said: “As GPs we are bearing the brunt of trying to save NHS money by providing cost-effective care closer to home to avoid people being admitted to hospital.

“The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s main priority is to try to reduce unplanned admissions because they are so expensive.”

Dr Dawson said the consquence is GPs – unable to recruit to fill the places vacated by disillusioned doctors leaving general practice and a dearth of trained GPs to fill their places – are working 12 to 13-hour days, working non-stop seeing patients and meeting the medical and administrative needs of their conditions.

She said: “We need better funding to recruit to reduce the intensity of our workloads. GPs are finally speaking out but it’s important patients too recognise the danger to services.

“The pubilc now has to fight for GPs too. The general population should be putting pressure on the Government to fund services properly.” The shortage of recruits for full time positions is resulting in surgeries having to resort to practitioners who are not fully qualified doctors to help them cope.

At least two Banbury surgeries, Windrush and Horsefair, have employed Emergency Care Practitioners – experienced nurses or paramedics – to ease pressure on home visits and the routine surgery workload. “We have tried to recruit replacement GPs but have failed miserably,” said Dr Dawson.

“Junior doctors don’t seem to want to come into the GP environment as it is. The Government needs to bring more doctors into training – but there is a long lead time so it’s not a quick fix.

Dr Dawson said GPs, including herself, were compromising on their home lives to honour their professional obligations to give patients the kind of treatment they would want for their own families.

She said: “I worry about how I can sustain this level of work and also about being able to replace older colleagues within the next five years.”

Dr Dawson’s surgery expects to lose several senior GPs and the practice manager to retirement within that time. She said because of the ageing population healthcare has changed significantly in the past 20 years.

She described a typical working day as starting at 7am to do necessary paperwork, first surgery from 8.30am and sometimes evening clinic until 7.45pm.

Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry said he was very willing to meet GPs to discuss the issues they have raised. He said: “Whoever is in government in the next five years is going to have to meet the Nicholson challenge of making savings against a background of an ageing population. Although a difficult task, it is not necessarily an impossible one.”