Community leaders have accused GP practices of “failing to deliver on the patients they’re supposed to see” as people scramble to get appointments, particularly in-person ones.
A meeting of the Thirsk and Malton Constituent Committee of North Yorkshire County Council has heard that GPs are dealing with unprecedented increases in the number of patients with limited resources.
But allowing GP companies to have a monopoly on healthcare in vast areas of North Yorkshire was “wrong”.
The claims follow the government which introduced its Plan for Patients two weeks ago, to improve access to primary care, in which GPs will be able to hire additional staff, including head nurses, offer same day GP appointments when needed and a two-week wait limit for a routine appointment.
GP leaders have responded by condemning proposals to impose a two-week target for appointment access and a requirement for same-day access for urgent patients as “deaf fool”.
Sheriff Hutton and Derwent Councilor Caroline Goodrick told the meeting that “many, many, many angry people” had contacted them about access to GPs, involving a multi-site practice with 19,500 patients.
She said: “Either you are with that practice or there is no provision. It’s a monopoly, it’s wrong because it’s not taking care of the patients it’s supposed to take care of.”
Councilors said one “reward for having less access to services in rural areas” was that patients expected to meet their GP one-on-one.
However, with the surgeries being done as a private business, councilors said the GP supply was quickly limited to chatting with “someone on the internet who could be anywhere in the country to diagnose whatever you have”.
They concluded that while the changes allowed GPs to see more patients, people could no longer build trust with a doctor, which meant patients were less likely to seek help.
The councilors heard that the county council would examine the problems related to the provision of GP surgeries in different parts of the county and compare them with regional or national averages.
The meeting heard officials state how “national averages could mask regional variations” and, after collating service delivery figures, the council could contact the local GP medical committee or NHS commissioning body to say “we don’t think they’re keeping their end of the bargain.”
NHS North Yorkshire has been contacted for comment.
NHS providers, the general practice representative body and trusts, have described the debate over access to NHS services post-Covid, and in particular face-to-face GP consultations, as “divisive” and provoking a “blame game” that risks pitting patients against health professionals.
The spokesperson for NHS providers said: “In some cases, healthcare professionals are at odds with each other, at a time when we really need to stick together. It detracts from the real problem: an underfunded, overworked and understaffed but highly valued service that is doing everything it can for patients under significant pressure.”