How Are GPs Handling The Winter Crisis?

Winter is a tough time for GP surgeries. This year measures are being put in place to help tackle the winter crisis. Last year’s winter period brought about an unprecedented rise in those needing medical treatment. This year, there will be funding for extra appointments as well as initiatives such as remote health monitoring to provide patients with the right level of care.

How are we handling the winter crisis?

The health community has needed to be better prepared for handling the winter crisis, as winter 2017/18 was described as being ‘the worst ever’ for the NHS. In order to stop a repeat of this, Clinical Commissioner Groups across different regions are introducing several measures to help, including instructing practices to stop routine appointments during the Christmas period and open urgent treatment centres in hospitals.

These measures, however, are not being given additional funding to put them in place. The only national-level support being offered at present is the support being offered to GPs to cover indemnity costs. It should also be noted that not all CCGs have put measures in place to help deal with the increasing winter workload. A Pulse survey revealed that 28% of GP respondents said ‘local proposals to help general practice this winter were either non-existent or had still yet to be revealed’.

Providing extended hours across evenings and weekends has been put forward as a potential measure, however, there are concerns that there will be issues recruiting the necessary GPs to make this happen.

Members of the healthcare community have expressed concerns that this winter could be worse than last year. Last summer saw a high volume of A&E admissions – this, as well as a delay in flu vaccinations, is feared to lead to a rise in the number of appointments this winter.

Doctors are still dealing with an influx of patients, with no real respite since the autumn. This means that there is little room for the extra capacity that any real winter health crisis could bring. There are fears that GPs will be ‘stretched to the limit’ to cope with the demand.

Are evening and weekend appointments the answer?

Evening and weekend appointments are one of the solutions being offered in Wales for handling the winter crisis. While providing additional appointment times can provide greater flexibility for patients, almost a quarter of these go unfulfilled, according to a survey by Pulse. It’s been argued by many GPs that the funding could be better used elsewhere.

Out of hours appointments can be a way to help patients get urgent care during the winter months, without having to visit A&E and take up appointments which could be reserved for more serious health emergencies. For doctors, making the switch to out of hours could be one way to alleviate the additional stress that comes with handling the winter crisis.

We currently have a number of out of hours vacancies in East Berkshire available for a range of positions, including out of hours nurses and GPs. if you’d like more information, please call us on 03000 243 333.