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Petition for face to face GP appointments

Hanne62 profile image

Has everyone seen and shared this petition? I think the current situation is positively dangerous. We need to be examined, not diagnosed by phone. And receptionists should not be triaging, deciding which problem is urgent and which isn’t. People will inevitably die if this is allowed to continue.

37 Replies

Signed. Thanks for posting this.

This topic has gathered worrying momentum over recent days. It's a subject very close to my heart. Please read my full post and read the Tweets of people who actually know what is going on if you don't agree with me.

My lungs are misbehaving today and I'm trying to avoid stress. 😊

My GP surgery is seeing patients face to face when necessary. Maybe I'm lucky but I've had no problem accessing a telephone appointment and then being seen in person. Perhaps there's an element of postcode lottery.

The government has underfunded primary care for years, hence the shortage of GP's. It's not the GP's who are at fault but the people at the top.

On top of this covid rates are still extremely high, the pandemic isn't over. So doctors have to keep the likelihood of people spreading covid to a minimum. Especially for CEV patients.

Dr Amir Khan explained the situation on Lorraine this morning.

The right wing media are doing a targeted campaign to discredit GP's. All part of the government plan to say the NHS is failing so everyone should have private healthcare. This has been going on for decades, mental health services were impacted first and there's no improvement.

I personally don't want to loose the NHS, I don't want to be in a situation in the future where I can't afford the medication that keeps me alive. There are people in the USA who live with this situation.

@EverydoctorUK and @JuJuliaGrace (Dr Julia Grace Patterson) on Twitter give a balanced accurate account of what is going on.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to CANINE12

I’m not on Twitter and don’t watch morning tv. Maybe my surgery and others should try explaining the difficulties to patients? That would be a start. All I’ve had is a deafening silence.

My surgery is a large one but isn’t even providing telephone appointments. You can only get a call back if you’re an “emergency”, which is decided by a receptionist with a checklist in front of her.

I have severe lung problems, asthma being one of them, as well as other health issues, and severe depression (not helped by this), but I haven’t been able to speak to a gp at all during the pandemic. Luckily I do have a good consultant, who is proactive, but when you’re managing complex, chronic illness you need the help of a gp occasionally. I have a flare-up right now. It could be the asthma, bronchiectasis or aspergillosis. Do I take steroids, antibiotics or anti-fungals 🤔 I just don’t know, and there’s no one to advise me.

I feel completely alone with this. It’s frightening

CANINE12 profile image
CANINE12 in reply to Hanne62

I apologise for the late reply.

I'm so sorry that your surgery is so badly run. Have you thought of putting in a complaint. I've just checked online and complaints to primary care should be done with NHS England.

You can complain either by e-mail, by post or by telephone.

Unless the issues of an individual GP surgery are brought to the attention of NHS England nothing will change. I hope you have enough spoons to put in a complaint.

I know how hard it is dealing with complex health issues as well as depression. Your situation sounds very scary. With regards to which lung problem is causing issues at the moment, can past experience with symptoms help you work out which condition is playing up at the moment.

I know when I have a chest infection rather than asthma on its own flaring up for example. Just knowing helps me to deal with the emotional impact of feeling unwell etc. I have PTSD, a dissociative disorder, and have had depression in the past. It's just one tool I use to manage my physical and mental health.

I hope your lungs start to settle down and behave themselves very soon. 😊

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to CANINE12

Thank you, that’s kind. I’m going to complain, yes, because basically we have no primary health service. As you’ll know, when we’re depressed the smallest things become quite difficult to deal with.

Today I’ve got a slight fever & the stuff on my chest is much worse so I’ve diagnosed myself with a chest bug & started the abs 😊x

twinkly29 profile image
twinkly29 in reply to CANINE12

I agree and think that many surgeries were struggling (or for some just very badly organised/run) before covid. Whatever system is supposed to be in place, these surgeries will still not work efficiently or effectively. Those who were well run adapted to deal with the last 18 months and have continued to do so.

Of course that does not help those struggling to even make contact.

Face to face appointments are definitely not needed for many patients, including those with asthma - GPs should be skilled at listening to patients (what they say and also to breathing etc). Listening to chests can be useful for some asthmatics but only if they wheeze and ate doing so at that very moment. However it shouldn't be reception who are deciding on who needs a face to face. My surgery (thankfully one of the good ones, from reception and admin through to GPs) has everybody phoning on a GP triage list, then seen face to face if needed.

So yes I think improvements are definitely needed for a lot of primary care - but I think primarily something needs to be done (I don't know what or how!) to address many people's access to even speaking to GPs as a first off. Even my very efficient practice has been struggling with demand the last few weeks though which I think shows how much pressure they're under at the moment.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to twinkly29

So glad your surgery has risen to the challenge, twinkly. Mine is very badly run. The clinicians are wonderful, but there’s only one way to contact them & that’s by phone. I can easily hold on for 1.5hrs, to be told there are no appointments, and won’t be any for the rest of the week. How do they even know that??

I can’t email, or go in personally, I get told all contact is telephone only. I’m going to write to them & hand-deliver my letter tomorrow, but I need advice now, not in however long it takes a gp to read it & respond.

I’m good at managing my problems & often only need a gp every six months, but I can’t go on like this indefinitely.

twinkly29 profile image
twinkly29 in reply to Hanne62

And that is utterly rubbish! So many places will be blaming covid but if other places cab manage it then 🤷‍♀️.

I hope you get somewhere - sometimes an email or conversation is all that's needed but, as you say, many days or weeks ahead is not helpful or acceptable.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to twinkly29

Some patients I know say they’ve written to our Practice Manager and weeks later are still waiting for a reply. I’ll try the senior partner, NHS England and the local CCG! x

Itswonderful profile image
Itswonderful in reply to Hanne62

Have you phoned 111? They can help get a GP appointment.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Itswonderful

No, I’ve heard such bad things about them. My husband called 111, 4wks ago, about his worsening heart condition. They phoned back 3hrs later to say sorry, they had lots of people waiting. Two hours after that they called again, to say they’d spoken to a gp who said it’s not urgent and could wait til next day! So I had to drive him to A&E. They said, the GP should’ve seen him & prescribed accordingly!

The GP from 111 did call back eventually - 3 days later! Hopeless isn’t it?

Itswonderful profile image
Itswonderful in reply to Hanne62

Oh that’s frightening for you! It’s hard to fathom when we are a country bursting with people so why are we so short of staff everywhere.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Itswonderful

I think it’s particularly bad where I live (near Brighton) tho I don’t know why. The ambulance service is terrible too. Our property & rental prices are off the scale, maybe that’s why. Otherwise tho, it’s a great place to live and I’m right on the coast which I love

Itswonderful profile image
Itswonderful in reply to Hanne62

Can’t beat being by the sea. I love it too. I hope things work out well. Maybe it’s worth having a conversation with the practice manager at the GP Surgery?

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Itswonderful

Yes. No point phoning surgery but I’m going to write in. Apparently they do take notice if something’s in writing! They did have an email you could contact them on but they’ve withdrawn that 😠

Thomas45 profile image
Thomas45 in reply to Hanne62

Have you thought of sending a letter outlining your problems? After being away from my home for 50 weeks I wrote my GPs a letter,. I heard from them straight away, and problems are being sorted.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Thomas45

Yes, I’m going to write a letter to the senior partner, but if I don’t get a timely reply & plan of action, it’ll be NHS England AND the CCCG x

nmcv13 profile image
nmcv13 in reply to CANINE12

My thoughts exactly. I’d just add that the GP’s have also been hugely instrumental in the vaccine rollout, now doing flu and boosters. We have far fewer GP’s than other countries. If we constantly denigrate those trying so hard we will lose them.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to nmcv13

I’ve a sister, retired nurse, who returned to work to help out at a vaccine “hub”. She points out GPs have deserted their surgeries for the GP centre. They get paid extra for every shift they do there. Why? They can’t be working in two places at once

While it could be frustrating not seeing a clinician face to face I think doctors should take all precautions to ensure that their surgeries are kept infection free, for their and their staff's sake and for their patients' sake. In the Last month I've had a telephone asthma review, a face to face hypertension review, a face to face nurse treating a leg which had weeping lymph fluid.By telephone I've been referred to and seen face to face a foot and leg consultant, and next month I shall see face to face both an orthotist and a physiotherapist.

I don't think it's a decision for the Secretary of State for health but for individual medical practices.

Out GPs are precious. It takes 10 years for a school leaver to become a GP, and many more to be a competent GP. And there is a shortage of them. I trust them to judge when it is right for each one to restart face to face appointments.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Thomas45

I wish I could trust my surgery. You’ve obviously been looked after by caring & competent staff. How would you feel if you could NEVER speak to, let alone see, your GP? With no explanation? On Tuesday I was told “there are no telephone appointments, and there won’t be any for the rest of this week.” I asked how they knew that, & was told GPs were either going to be out, or they’d booked all their appointments themselves for follow-ups. This can’t be right, surely

Have GP surgeries considered going ‘outside’ to counter the effects of infection? Possible tents or the like to be able to consult with patients? I know it’s not the same but pubs restaurants managed before they were allowed people inside. Many people want to see their doctor and can’t, this situation is escalating the mental health issues in this country. GP’s listening and reassurance/action is sometimes all people need to confidently carry on with their lives.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to KBalders

It’s an idea, but autumn is coming x

That’s a good idea. I recently had an appointment with my asthma nurse specialist at my local hospital outside in a large tent. My husband drove the car into the tent and I had all my breathing tests done without leaving my car. It all went very smoothly and it was good to speak face to face and being able to ask any questions.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Karate109

That’s nice. I’ve had very good care from my consultant but the GPs are invisible x

Where I live the number of available GPs has been falling for years but the population keeps increasing with new housing developments springing up everywhere with no infrastructure to support them. Even before Covid a couple of communities had lost their GP surgeries. Covid is now highlighting the desperate lack of local primary medical services across the board. Some parts of the media are unfairly blaming GPs, suggesting they're lazy and overpaid.

Twenty years ago I was lucky to have a local GP surgery with a good number of GPs, appointments available within a reasonable time. That service could not be sustained as doctors retired and it eventually closed - one major factor was the inability to pay new doctors enough to move into the area, one of the most expensive outside London. I now have to travel across the city to my new surgery and appointments are more difficult to secure, though I have no trouble getting same day appointments if my asthma is kicking off.

During the last 18 months I've been able to see a GP, asthma nurse and BP nurse plus have blood tests, but I've also had telephone appointments which were equally thorough. My GP even arranged a phone consultation with a hospital consultant over the Christmas period. So I feel that despite local services being really stretched, I've received good care. My surgery clearly prioritise asthma and other chronic illnesses. Their website is also primed with Covid instructions and their various digital services are coming into their own.

I've signed the petition but this problem isn't all down to GPs. We shouldn't scapegoat services that have been overstretched for years.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Poobah

Thanks for signing. I quite agree about new housing, lack of infrastructure and gps retiring. It’s the same here. But unlike yours, people with chronic illnesses who need occasional help are ignored by my surgery. The receptionist decides what’s urgent, from a checklist in front of her. I mentioned the word “ectopic” and she admitted she didn’t know what it meant. That can’t be right

Poobah profile image
Poobah in reply to Hanne62

A good receptionist is worth their weight in gold, for the doctors as well as for the patients. But triage is not really a role for a receptionist and the GP surgery shouldn't be leaving it to someone in that role to screen out non-urgent cases and I wouldn't expect them to know what ectopic was or how urgent it was. But that's definitely what is happening, some sort of triage by checklist.

On the odd occasion I've resorted to the 111 service, but for non asthma matters. A couple of times I've been told to see my GP the next day and when I've rung the surgery they can see on the system that 111 have advised a next day appointment and I've seen a GP.

I hope you see an improvement in your GP services. Have they got a patient board that you could join? Ours is always looking for volunteers to take part on the board, representing the patients.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Poobah

They did have a patient board but suspended it when the pandemic started. I think they’re good gps who’ve just lost the plot. It’s absolute chaos - missing paperwork, repeat prescriptions taking 10 days because “there’s no one to sign it off”. No one seems able to tackle it. They need a really good Practice Manager.

We haven’t had much luck with 111 - recently my husband waited so long he had to go to A&E (and the GP didn’t call back for 3 days!) We live on the coast very near Brighton. Health services here are at rock bottom. Ambulance service too. I realise this is exceptional but am utterly fed up & quite scared. I have 3 lung conditions and husband a heart problem 🤷‍♀️ Anyway, I’ll stop blathering! x

Poobah profile image
Poobah in reply to Hanne62

That all sounds like a nightmare. A horrible mix of weak services, as you say, rock bottom and it's scary. It sounds like they're still too busy to stop and address the fundamentals, and a good practice manager would certainly be able to do that. All the best, take care & stay safe.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Poobah

Thank you! 😘

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Poobah

I agree it’s not all down to GPs. One of the things that was frustrating right from the start was being told by my consultant’s secretary (not in Respiratory, I hasten to add) that because of covid the best place to get any answer to any problems I was having was to discuss it with my GP because it was unlikely I would get a response from the consultant for some time. But hang on a minute, the reason I’m under consultant led care is because the GPs have already admitted that I need more specialist care than they can provide - sigh! Now if that happened countrywide then it might help to explain why in some areas GPs ended up feeling overstretched and exhausted: increased workload from patients not able to see/contact their consultant on top of the usual caseload they have, then of course rolling out vaccines.

To be fair, I’ve had great support from my local surgery, even if I’ve ended up talking to different GPs on many times, most of whom I’ve never met nor even heard of pre Covid. At least one was astonished that my consultant cancelled an appointment (not even suggested a phone link up) the moment covid restrictions first came in in 2020 despite the fact that I’d reported flaring symptoms and problems to him less than three months earlier.

My understanding is that it is actually Government policy to encourage a return to face-to-face consultations, but I think remote ones are likely to remain common. I missed a face-to-face asthma review last week because of IBS, and was thankful that I was able to convert it to a Zoom consultation which, in the event, was perfectly adequate. But it's all "horses for courses" and face-to-face consultations are vital in many cases (my wife was saved by a GP earlier in the pandemic when a hospital doctor would not examine her, but the GP agreed to and discovered cancer which seems to have been treated successfully).

My GP nephew has had to stop going to the surgery after his younger daughter caught COVID after returning to school, so there are still practical difficulties in getting back to normal. In the end, GPs will have to make the decision themselves and, like all people, some will make better decisions than others. But there's nothing wrong with a bit of polite encouragement, providing we're all aware that the pandemic has not gone away and that there is (and always will be) a place for the appropriate use of remote consultation.

Hanne62 profile image
Hanne62 in reply to Superzob

Good points, well made, and thank goodness the GP did examine your wife. I do hope she makes a full recovery.

I don’t mind telephone appointments (IF only I could get one!) they’re often all that’s needed, but occasionally the GP should examine the patient.

I do not know how they can return to face-to-face consultations. Covid has been with us for almost 2 years, and yet there are still no measures in place to use proper PPE to protect staff. Surgical masks help, but their protection level is what ... 3-5 at best?

I was at Glenfield 2 month ago, and the nurses kept asking questions about my P3 respirator ("I have never seen a mask like this before, where did you get it"?). These P3s (protection level 20) cost £40, filters included, and there is no shortage of them. It appears that their managers never explained to them how masks work, and what might available to them. Another issue that I noticed at my work place is that staff are more willing to take the risk and remain unprotected than to pay for their own PPE ("my employer should pay for this, not me").

The only sign of preparedness I noticed at Glenfield was tape on the floor for one-way movement and signs on chairs to keep apart. I guess aerosol particles know to stay where they are. For reference, the sedimentation rate for 1 micron size particle is on the order of 1 meter in 10E5 seconds in the absence of turbulent flows (i.e. people walking). Exhaled particles containing PCR-able genomes are in droplets around that size.

I have offered my whole box of spare respirators to my local hospital (Leicester Infirmary) back in the spring of 2020, and they never accepted it. I guess it's better for them to keep everyone equally unprotected and to have a fair chance of getting COVID than protect at least someone and to educate people on how aerosols and air filtration work.

That’s both crazy and scary!

IMHO the current govt strategy is to rely on vaccination for protection, and to get to herd immunity (let kids and teenagers have it). I have received two shots, but I am still wearing a P3 everywhere (and thinking to get a full PAPR, since my lungs still get tired). Just went for a walk for 30 min in a P3; no shortness of breath (i.e. no asthma attacks), only chest muscle pain from having to push the air. Better than no respirator, but to get back to work and/or seeing a GP in person I want something better.

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