Luke Pollard, Labour Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, requesting better funding and resources for primary care in Plymouth to the end the current crisis.

The letter raises concerns that Plymouth’s “primary care is in a state of crisis and GPs are working to the point of exhaustion” due to a lack of funding and resources. The Labour MP is worried the crisis will only worsen in April as GP contracts are up for renewal and GPs are considering whether to continue.

Nurse and GP vacancies persist in Plymouth’s primary care health sector and waiting lists continue to be high. In January 2018, research showed the number of GPs in England has fallen by around 5% over two years and NHS England estimated one in seven GP posts in Plymouth had not been filled. In response, crisis meetings have been held by GPs in Plymouth in recent months to discuss the future of surgeries and how a lack of funding makes it difficult to retain GPs in primary care services.

Significant strain has been placed on primary care services in Plymouth and Luke Pollard MP’s letter stresses the need for greater funding for GP practices and other primary care health services to ensure that patients can access the care that they urgently require. As waiting lists continue to be high in Plymouth, the Labour MP argues more funding would help the remaining open practices and ease pressure on GPs as we approach the April deadline.

Luke Pollard MP says:

“I have written to the Health Secretary, requesting the Government take action to end this unacceptable and unnecessary primary care crisis in Plymouth and around the UK. GPs do a superb job but many are working to the point of exhaustion. While they continue to go above and beyond they are not being given enough help by the Government to ease pressure.”

“I fear that as we inch closer to April and GP contracts are up for renewal, retirements and GPs handing back their contracts will put further pressure on primary care services that are already facing shortages in staff.”

“My former surgery in Peverell recently shut last year so I know all too well what it’s like to lose your GP. I learned from GPs of their concerns with the fragile state of primary care services due to the lack of money for these services.” 

“GPs are overworked and working long hours to meet the pressures in primary care and we need to support them by providing more staff through funding. We need better funding for social care – the primary care system is under genuine risk and the Government must address this urgently. It’s not just in primary care where there is a crisis it’s a lack of funding in social care that is causing this crisis. NHS staff do an amazing job but they can’t go on doing more with less”

Local GP, James Boorer says:

“I became a GP to help people with physical and emotional health difficulties and this is a job I have really enjoyed for a number of years.  During this time patient needs and demand on general practice has increased significantly but unfortunately funding has not kept pace with the rising demand.  We only get about £115 per patient per year to provide the totality of patient care so it’s no surprise we are struggling when some patients consult us at least once a week. It now feels that we can no longer adequately meet our population’s needs and this is felt by patients with longer waits for routine appointments and long waits to get through on the phone. 

“As GPs we want to provide a superb service and we are very mindful we can no longer do this.  We are trying our best by working much longer hours for no additional pay but we have been stretched to breaking point and beyond.  A number of GPs having broken under the pressure and given up direct patient care.  I no longer enjoy being an NHS GP because I cannot keep pace with demand and I know our patients are getting frustrated with restricted access to their GP.  Patients are complaining, and rightly so, but those complaints just compound my loss of joy from the job because I’m working harder than ever to try and provide the service patients want but the majority of feedback we get is negative.

“In order to deliver the service that patients expect and want we need additional staff.  To employ additional staff we need more funding so we can pay their wages.  Given the many years of under-investment in primary care and the severity of the primary care crisis we probably need a significant funding boost of around 20% or £23 per person per year to enable us to recruit enough additional staff to meet the rising needs of our patients.”

Sian Kinrade, committee member Church View Patient Participation Group said:

“Pressure on GPs and primary care services has been increasing year on year and, as members of our local Patient Participation Group, we have seen some of the changes practices have had to make to meet demand.  These include capping patient lists to ensure the safety of patients already registered, telephone triage to manage demand for face-to-face appointments and the changing practices of GPs as they try to cope with longer hours and increasing stress.   Practices are very aware of the tension between what is wanted by both patients and GPs and what can be provided safely and we fully support the various initiatives Plymouth’s practices have put in place to manage the issues facing them.”

“We do not want to see any more ‘failing’ practices, with GPs handing back their contracts due to burn-out, nor do we went to see more patients losing their named GP -; something that 34,000 patients in Plymouth have already experienced.  No GP practice in Plymouth is likely to be immune from the knock-on effects of Primary Care failing and, of course, the possible impact on patients’ health and wellbeing could be severe.” 

“In a recent survey of Plymouth GPs, 33% had thought about handing back their contracts, which would lead to practice closure or takeover by an interim provider. If that happened, a further 49,000 patients would be affected, bringing the total to 84,000 – nearly a third of Plymouth’s population.  We believe this is completely unacceptable and that the Department of Health and NHS England should be doing much more to support Plymouth’s Primary Care.”

“We believe that what we need to do now to help save Primary Care in Plymouth is to unite the patient voice through the development of a Plymouth-wide association of PPGs.  This will enable us to support all the local practices and respond together to prevent the problems facing Plymouth’s primary care services from tipping the city into crisis.”

What did Luke’s letter to Jeremy Hunt MP say?


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