I’ve got my activist hat on today, so if you’re not fussed about the state of the nation, do feel free to poddle off and make tea.
As I dig further into the issues surrounding the closure of my local GP’s surgery (you can sign the petition here) it becomes clear how much this is something that will not just affect me and the 2,400 of us who are patients of Dr. Lenten. It will affect, it is already affecting, our whole city.
It will affect the whole country.
This tiny surgery we care enough to fight about, is just one of many. We are the third to go in our area in two months. There are more scheduled to be shut. Soon there will be thousands of patients swilling around the city, looking for a GP to treat them.
Waiting times in our city are already at an average 2-3 weeks for a non-urgent appointment time (you can still get same day appointments at my surgery by the way). That isn’t going to get better as all those of us losing their GPs and local surgeries pour onto waiting lists and into already overstretched practices.
Yesterday, just going through old articles from our local paper I found these figures for our city.
Leicester is one of the worst affected cities in the UK with regard to the GP exodus. Last year we had 40 GP vacancies in our city because of the number of GPs leaving their practices. That is the equivalent of 60 – 70,000 patients in terms of treatment.
These positions are not being filled. The Department of Health wanted to raise the number of people applying to train as Doctors. The number has dropped by 5% in twelve months. Let’s not even talk about the fact that it takes seven years to qualify and the cost of training.
The positions will continue to be unfilled and the problem will get worse. There is evidence of GPs moving abroad, moving into other professions, retiring earlier and earlier, and sadly, a fair number being too ill to carry on working.
This is what we are faced with nationally and for us in Leicester it is at crisis point.
This means that before the closures, our surgeries were already supporting an extra 60 -70,000 patients. The two surgeries that have already closed and ours which is scheduled to close, will add a further 15,000 patients to that number. Other surgeries are going. The number of patients will only rise, and the number of doctors and surgeries is continuing to drop.
Eventually, and not too far into the future as far as I can see it, it will put an intolerable strain on a system which is already close to breaking point.
The thing is, when we talk about systems at breaking point, we miss the actual point. What begins to break are patients lives. That is why this is so important at the end of the day.
Take away the politics of it for a moment. Take away the cost issue (which I know is not simple). Reduce this to what matters. What matters is our health. What matters are our lives. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day if you are a dyed in the wool Tory or a card carrying socialist. What matters is that if you think your child has meningitis, you need to see a qualified, competent doctor and you need to see them quickly. What matters is that when your elderly parent has a fall, you need to see a doctor who will treat them like a human being and not a nuisance.
That is what is under threat. For ALL of us.