A general practitioner in Wales has spoken of the pressure on doctors after a watchdog revealed this week that patients are in ‘access crisis’ to surgeries.

Gareth Oelmann, who is a general practitioner at Clark Avenue Surgery in Cwmbran, said he was not surprised by the results and shed light on an overloaded and underfunded industry.

“We are well aware that demand exceeds capacity and that there is a need for investment,” said Dr Oelmann, who is and chairman of the local medical committee in Gwent.

Read more: To learn more about the pressures on the healthcare system, visit our health section here

“The increase in demand seems to be between 15 and 20% for appointments and this is certainly reflected in the difficulties that patients face.

“GPs are delivering more appointments than ever and working more hours than ever. As a result, staff in all fields, from receptionists to nurses and managers, are burnt out, exhausted and under tremendous pressure to keep up with growing demand. “

The watchdog, the Community Health Council (CHC), said many patients waited up to an hour on the phone to speak to someone. When they finally arrive at the CHC, patients are often told that there are no appointments available.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said doctors are trying to solve the problem using modern technology, which Dr Oelmann says will have to continue for the foreseeable future. He said the pandemic had exacerbated an existing problem.

“It could be described as a perfect storm,” he said. “The pandemic has exposed the problem that there are simply not enough doctors and staff in primary care.

“The goal is that a mixed approach to consultations will ensure that all patients have access that is right for them. This [phone call consultations for some] will simply have to continue to meet demand.

Patients have repeatedly spoken of long waits on the phone, including Barry’s Nigel Harris who said this week he called his local doctor’s office – Waterfront Medical Center – 2,000 times in three days before he could see a doctor. He was recovering from surgery and needed urgent medical advice and post-operative treatment.

Nigel said he believed it was ultimately seen as a reward for his persistence, but was concerned that some might decide to go to A&E and put more pressure on hospital emergency departments, while others might decide to forgo getting the health care they need.

Patients at Grange Hospital in Cwmbran said at least 15 ambulances were transporting patients and waiting outside A&E on September 8, causing delays of up to 18 hours for some

The CHC report found that many patients across Wales knew that doctor’s appointments for the whole day were already full by 8:10 a.m. – 10 minutes after the queues for appointments opened. you.

A spokesperson for the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board explained: “During the first triage of patients, our general receptionists were specially trained to ask questions to ensure that the patient is being treated by the right healthcare professional, from first attempt. We need to remind the public that the GP may not be the right person to see based on your healthcare needs, but it may be another member of our healthcare team. primary care, such as nurse practitioner, optometrist or local pharmacist.

“We understand that when people are not doing well they will want to talk to a healthcare professional quickly and it can be frustrating if they have to make a lot of calls. Our GP practices experience high levels of phone calls. Therefore, where appropriate, we ask patients to contact their GP practice through other means listed on their practice website. As winter approaches, we also ask the public to help us help you; please ask your local pharmacist for advice on medications and minor illnesses such as coughs, colds and headaches or practice self-care at home.

Dr Oelmann echoed these sentiments and urged patients to keep trying and ‘stay on the line’.

“Overall, people are tired and frustrated by the pressures of increasing demand and are unable to provide the service to patient satisfaction,” he said. “We appreciate that there is a backlog. There’s a backlog all along the system and it’s not just GPs – it’s all along.

“There are backlogs in secondary care, ambulance service, social care, everything is linked. None of this can be considered in isolation, and it goes around in circles and becomes more and more difficult for the staff.

“We recognize how frustrating it is for patients who cannot reach general practitioners over the phone. The fact that they can’t pass isn’t that the receptionist or GP isn’t working to their full capacity, it just shows the demand and how incredibly busy the practices are right now.

“Please persevere and you will eventually get over it and get an appointment with the appropriate health care professional.” “

Dr Oelmann said he is concerned that young people will be fired from the profession due to the pandemic and current pressures as older doctors leave the sector, adding to the reduced capacity in the face of post-arrears. confinement.

“We have a serious recruitment and retention problem at all levels for general practitioners,” he said. “I am concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the public perception of general practitioners, which will affect those wishing to enter the profession. Many senior GPs approaching retirement age decide to leave now.

“What’s important throughout all of this is that we make sure to provide safe healthcare to patients and safe healthcare to staff. This means being able to allocate appropriately to ensure patients have the right types of appointments. “

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