Have you been struggling to get an appointment with your GP recently?

If so you aren’t alone and one East Lancashire doctor wants to explain exactly why this is the case.  

Doctor Abdul Mannan, of Hazelvalley Family Practice in Rossendale, said overworked doctors and systemic issues heightened by the pandemic are to blame for the lack of appointments.

According to research by medical negligence experts, Boyes Turner, people across the UK reported an average waiting time of seven days for appointments booked in the last six months – suggesting it’s taking several days to get through to the practice.

In the North West specifically, patients waited 4.1 days until an appointment could be confirmed and it took an average of 5.8 days for an appointment to actually take place.

Doctor Mannan said some patients have been taking their frustrations out on doctors and receptionist staff.

Lancashire Telegraph: Doctor Abdul MannanDoctor Abdul Mannan

In a YouTube video posted to his channel he said: “There is so much toxicity out there about general practices and staff – people are becoming violent and nasty.

“I know colleagues who have been stabbed and beaten up because people are angry and upset.”

The doctor explained that some people believe GPs are sitting on a “six figure salary” and don’t care about their patients - but this is far from the truth.

He added: “I’ve got friends who are quitting the jobs and one has become a plumber because a plumbing job pays more.

“We don’t earn six figure salaries and your average GP isn’t on that type of income.”

He accepts that it is “so hard” to get an appointment after 8:15am but insists there are reasons for the delay.

Gone are the days when face-to-face consultations were all a doctor had to do; now doctors have to fit one consultations, email consultations, video calls and more into their working day

The 45-year-old explained: “We’re clocking up 10, 12, 13 hour days which is unsustainable.

“It’s absolutely exhausting and it’s non-stop - you just don’t have the time to do everything.”

Abdul added that GPs are also dealing with an increasing population while their numbers dwindle.

He also added that jobs that used to held by hospital staff have now shifted to GPs.

He explained: “We use our hospitals far less – and that’s okay but you need more people, more resources and that hasn’t followed.”

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, Doctor Adbul said that while the issue of GP shortages were highlighted in the pandemic, it is not the cause.

He said: “We’ve been working like mad over the pandemic but it feel like GPs have been scapegoated.

“We weren’t sat around doing nothing in the pandemic. In the practice things had to be done remotely.

“During the pandemic people fell ill and you always hear about people who were admitted to hospital.

“What you didn’t know is that [the majority] of people who weren’t admitted to hospital were being helped by us. 

“We were asked to stop other work temporarily so we could help Covid-19 – it wasn’t because we didn’t want to and GPs weren’t sat there doing nothing.”

On the side, GPs were helping with the Covid ‘hot sites’ (a place to see patients with coronavirus symptoms face-to-face) and also with the vaccination programme.

Doctor Mannan explained: “75 per cent of all vaccinations in uk were delivered by GPs and their teams and they had to find time out of their day-to-day work to do this.”

Adbul concluded that GP appointment shortages are a “system problem”.

Lancashire Telegraph: (YouTube: Doctor Abdul Mannan GP)(YouTube: Doctor Abdul Mannan GP)

“The reality is our hospitals are stressed out," he explained. “That’s why A and E is full, urgent care is full.

“There’s not enough GPs, doctors and nurses to look after you.

“It’s a system problem. It’s because our government does not invest enough in the NHS.

“We have to look at it as a system thing – we have to lobby our MPs and government and we have to stop torturing each other.”

Dr Mark Dziobon, local GP and Medical Director for the Pennine Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) agreed that the NHS and GP services have been “challenged” in the last few years.

He said: “GPs are and have always been the first point of contact for patients using the NHS. As a result of this they are the first port of call for patients who are ill, distressed and needing care and treatment.

“We live in an area where many of our patients have extra challenges due to being poorly and lacking resources to improve their life.  The economic situation of many patients in the area is really difficult making a lot of people very vulnerable. 

“On top of this we have had the Covid pandemic which has worsened the health of many, and increased demand on GP services, on top of the back log of demand as the lockdown lifted.”

He also has a message for the public and encourages them to remember that GP practice staff are “human beings too”.

He said: “They have suffered and have seen suffering.  Every single GP and member of staff I know wants to do the best for their patients.

“The tragedy is that the media and social media is amplifying an unacceptable level of animosity at GPs and their teams without recognising the challenges that they face.  Guidelines, policy, funding, and a range of bureaucracy adds to this burden. 

“My plea is that people remember that GPs and their teams are here to help them and they are doing this in very difficult circumstances. People need to be kind and courteous and recognise the intense challenges and pressures our GPs and their teams are under.”

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