Lack of GP appointments due to 'overworked doctors and issues with the system', doctor says

Report by ITV Granada Reports journalist Rob Smith

Overworked doctors and issues with the system heightened by the pandemic are the main reasons many have not been able to get an GP appointment, one medic has said.

Doctor Abdul Mannan from East Lancashire, says there are simply too few doctors to go around.

In one day at the Hazelvalley Family Practice in Rossendale, 800 people called the surgery - 25% more than before the pandemic.

But, just 57% of GP appointments across the country, are now in person compared with 80% before the pandemic.

Dr Mannan says backlogs created by Covid, new remote consultations, and vaccine clinics mean exhaustion for GPs trying to keep up, and problems for patients trying to get an appointment.

He says: "At the end of the week I'm very exhausted. I'd be lying to you if I said I don't sleep well, I'd be lying to you if I said I don't have a headache when I go home some evenings."

Waiting rooms can give the impression GP practices are quieter, thanks to a system where people can be assessed over the phone.

But, Cllr Alyson Barnes, leader of Rossendale Borough Council does not think the new system, which sees patients assessed over the phone, works for enough of them, and is calling for a review.

She says: "I think for some people it's really good, if you're at work, you can still speak to your GP, find 10 minutes, or even if you're walking your dog, but I think if some people are relying on talking to the GP on the phone and their hearing isn't so good then that's a problem."

Most patients say they are resigned to a health system under strain.

Dr Mannan's concerns mirror those of the Royal College of GPs and he hopes patients understand he and other GPs want to give the best help they can.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We’re hugely grateful to GP practices for their hard work and dedication to bring appointment numbers back to pre-pandemic levels, with over 330 million delivered in the last year.

"The NHS has been clear GP practices must provide face to face appointments, alongside remote consultations, and over half of all appointments in July were face to face.

"We are investing £270 million to expand GP capacity, on top of providing £1.5 billion to the sector until 2023/24 to deliver world-class care to patients."