More pressure on GP surgeries – concern from Healthwatch Brighton and Hove

Recent reports about the pressure on NHS and social care services have drawn attention to hospital bed occupancy, growing demand on the Care Home sector and the impact of year on year reductions in funding for local authority social care services.

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove is also concerned about pressure on local GPHealthwatchservices. Over the last 18 months the City has seen GP practices close, some practices put into special measures by the Care Quality Commission [CQC] and one practice closed by CQC for quality and safety reasons. In total 10-15% of the population of the City have suffered some form of disruption in GP services in the last 18 months.

NHS England and the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group [CCG] are working hard to mitigate the impact of multiple pressures – increasing demand, winter pressures, recruitment and retention of staff problems, changing expectations for GP’s to be available more often and outside normal office hours. The NHS, supported by Healthwatch acted quickly to support and advise patients when the the Lewes Road practice closed unexpectedly just before Christmas, plans are also well progressed to protect and continue providing GP services for homeless people in the City.

The latest concern is about the overall capacity of the system to withstand any further sudden shock and changes. Particularly GP practices with closed lists.

Recently a Healthwatch volunteer found the following: “After I discovered my practice was not accepting any new patients, I was interested to see how many more were in the same position. By looking on the NHS Choices website I found there is a total of eleven in Brighton and Hove area. I have double checked these against the practice websites. The practices are:
Ardingly Court
Regency
The Haven
Montpellier
Broadway
Avenue
Beaconsfield
Brighton Health and Wellbeing
Matlock
Hove Park Villas
Central Hove
as of 30/1/2017 “

This represents 25% of the GP Practices in the City – so anyone looking for a place to register as a new patient or to change GP surgeries for other reasons might find that difficult in some parts of the City. A minor inconvenience for many but potentially a considerable problem for people with mobility issues, those who are frail or who cannot easily access or cannot afford transport costs.

Entries to NHS Choices are made by local practices directly and they will close their list when they have reached a level of safe practice. So the indication given on that web site is likely to be up to date and directly liked to patient safety and a quality service.

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove is currently planning to visit every GP surgery in the City to review services form the patients perspective. A similar exercise previously recommended dozens of possible changes and improvement.

see:https://www.healthwatchbrightonandhove.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/GP-strategic-report-5.pdf , the Healthwatch CEO David Liley said today: 
“The important thing for us is not to criticise but to help build more resilient services. The NHS can only do that if everyone is realistic about the challenges ahead. If GP services are going to cope with more demand and more varied demand in the future those plans must be build on a sound foundation.”

Healthwatch will be working closely with the local GP based Patient Groups http://www.brightonandhoveccg.nhs.uk/patient-participation-groups-ppgs
to provide feedback to local GP’s on patient experiences.”