Suffolk doctors have described how their surgeries are seeing increasing demand as a British Medical Association (BMA) report found people were getting “more sick” due to spending cuts and the cost-of-living crisis.
Staff at the Saxmundham Health Center receive between 500 and 600 calls a day and have increased the number of staff handling these inquiries to four from what used to be one.
The Woolpit Health Center team is also busy, although both surgeries are coping and have not yet reached the point of being overwhelmed.
The BMA report showed that doctors were struggling to keep up with the demand from patients whose health conditions were worsening due to poverty, poor housing, lack of heating and lack of food.
Around half of GP appointments dealt with often preventable long-term conditions, while around 20% of doctors’ time was spent dealing with problems that were “non-medical but pressure related.” social or economic”.
In the study, the BMA argued that the nation’s health was already deteriorating before Covid hit, even during a decade of austerity, widening inequalities and cuts in public services and public health.
Dr John Havard, a GP at Saxmundham Health, said there has been an “explosion” of mental health problems during the covid-19 pandemic, adding to the workload for GPs.
He said there was “a lot of complexity” surrounding chronic disease, which was often “intertwined” with social issues.
He added: “There is no question that people who struggle more turn to GPs more when in the past they might have turned to church or other agencies.”
However, she said her surgery had been “fortunate” in being able to recruit more doctors at a time when many were leaving the profession, as well as increasing the number of mental health nurses.
Dr Richard West, who works at the Woolpit, said there had been a post-pandemic spike in the number of calls for surgery, adding that a “mixture of things” had caused this spike, including the fallout from the virus and the cost. . -life crisis.
“We are busier than ever, but we are managing to keep up with the volumes that come our way on a daily basis. It would be nice to have more capacity because of the volumes we have,” he said.
Both doctors pointed to a landmark book by Dr. Julian Tudor-Hart, titled The Inverse Care Law, which argued that areas with the greatest need, primarily deprived areas, had less access to health services, while places with less need had plus. means.
They said the problems highlighted in the book were long-term and not yet resolved.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The government has prioritized health and social care in the Autumn Statement, with an additional £6.6bn going to the NHS over the next two years.
“We have also provided more than £3.4bn this year to local authorities in England to fund public health services to address problems including alcohol use, obesity and smoking, and we are supporting people with the cost of living, with an additional £1,200 supporting eight million of the most vulnerable households.
“We are committed to improving the health of the nation so that everyone can live longer, healthier lives, regardless of their background.”