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WALSALL: Concerns over lack of GP access

WALSALL: Concerns over lack of GP access

009.JPG Walsall Council House, photo George Makin. copyright Trinity Mirror

Patients in Walsall are using up valuable ambulances to get treatment as they are unable to access face to face GP appointments, it is feared.

A report to Walsall Council’s social care and health overview and scrutiny committee revealed how people in the borough were still struggling to see their doctor in person.

Health bosses said there had been an increase in phone and video appointments to help cope with demand, which has rocketed as a result of Covid-19.

But committee member Vera Waters said the inability of being able to access GPs in person was having a knock-on effect on the ambulance service.

She said: “Face-to-face appointments and getting to see doctors is an impossibility and that is all over the borough. People are complaining about this.

“I think there is a possibility that people are using ambulances and dialling 999 when they don’t really need an ambulance.

“But it’s because they cannot get the care they want from their doctors so are asking to go to hospital.

“Today, there were four police officers with a lady who collapsed and she’d got a bloodied face.

“Those officers waited for 30 minutes for her for an ambulance and I assume there was no ambulance coming because they then took her in a police car and I assume they took her to hospital.”

Geraint Griffiths-Dale, Managing Director of Walsall, Black Country & West Birmingham CCG said: “The ambulance service is incredibly busy at the moment.

“I’ve been an urgent care lead in the NHS for probably over 20 years and I think the urgent care system is the busiest I’ve ever seen at this point of the year.

“Nationally, about 40 per cent of ambulance calls could have gone to another service.”

To try to address the concerns of a lack of physical appointments, Mr Griffiths-Dale said extra staff have been recruited to support primary care services.

He also said initiatives were in place for people to see doctors outside of their own practice including the GP Extended Access Programme and the Urgent Treatment Centre at Walsall Manor Hospital, whose hours have been extended this week.

But committee member Diane Coughlan said residents were not being consulted on the increasing reliance on virtual appointments.

She said: “The problem is communication. Everyone I speak to ask ‘when are the GPs going to get back to normal?’ It is evident they are never going to get back to the “normal” we knew GP surgeries worked before the pandemic.

“The report alludes to starting the process of digitalisation and the pandemic has quickened that process. People have been pushed along into it and not brought along with it.

“There needs to be some communication out there and some expectations managed because people are still thinking GPs are doing nothing because they can’t get a face to face appointment.

“They need to understand, whether we agree with it or not, that is the way forward and you’ll never get people on side unless you talk to them and explain this.”

Mr Griffiths-Dale added: “We are being encouraged to roll out telephone and video appointments.

“Face-to-face is a priority for those who need them but there isn’t an expectation that everyone will go back to face to face appointments.

“But I think it’s a very valid criticism we haven’t done the consultation and engagement.”

Words: Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter


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