Patients are waiting longer for appointments because GPs are burdened with everything from having to ratify new disability claims to providing evidence of whiplash for specialist injury solicitors.
So says Oldham GP Dr Zahid Chauhan who has revealed that he and his colleagues are also being asked to act as mediators in housing disputes, become advocates for employees at tribunals and even write sick notes for children to explain an absence for school.
Meanwhile research has shown that the number of people having to wait at least a week to see their GP soared by half-a-million last year.
Writing in a leading national medical journal, Dr Chauhan said: “The phrase “If in doubt, go and see your GP” has reached ridiculous proportions. Where once we treated the sick, now we are also administrators churning out letters on an individual’s suitability for work or sign sick notes for employees before they are even legally required. If you add treating an ageing population, a lack of resources and a dwindling GP workforce and even filling in for dentists because the public can’t afford one, then you’ll see why you are waiting so long for an appointment.”
Dr Chauhan describes some of the duties now expected of a GP as buck-passing by a Government determined to come up with knee-jerk reactions to serious problems. “The latest so-called crackdown on disability benefits means that claims are now made on a points-based system. With over half a million people affected there are sure to be thousands of would-be claimants challenging their decision and that means the intervention of a GP. Far from reducing the taxpayers’ bill that will result in more resource being wasted by the NHS!”
A failure to regulate personal injury specialists means that Britain has now become the whiplash capital of Europe with 2.7 claims for the condition made for every traffic accident. Like many family doctors across the country, Dr Chauhan has seen a massive increase in enquiries demanding proof of injury.
“As caring professionals, we would love to intervene in cases where people need re-housing because of health concerns or require medical proof to show that have suffered conditions such as anxiety due to bullying at home or school” continued the Failsworth GP, “but the simple fact is we do not have the time or resource to continually do this. Better initial communication between housing associations and social care providers would help as would counselling services to address issues such as bullying.”
Research released in April revealed that 9,770 UK surgeries admitted they were struggling to cope with demand. It also showed that 14.2 million patients had to wait a week or did not get an appointment at all, the last time they tried to see their doctor.
Dr Chauhan concluded: “We must return to the point where family doctors heal the sick and are not expected to cure all of society’s ills through yet another consultation or letter.”