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Community nurse and GP caseloads mean no time for chronic disease management, warns top doctor

Community nurses and GPs will spend so much time ‘firefighting’ urgent cases this winter than they may have no time for chronic disease management, one of the UK’s leading GPs has said.
GPs under severe winter pressures

Community nurses and GPs will spend so much time firefighting urgent cases this winter than they may have no time for chronic disease management, one of the UKs leading GPs has said.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, says patients could be waiting up to four weeks to see their GP over the winter period because demand is so high.

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, has said patients could be waiting weeks to see their doctor as over-stretched medics struggle to keep waiting times down Picture: PA

She is profoundly concerned about whether practices can cope. Her comments follow predictions earlier this year in a report by the Queens Nursing Institute where a third of UK practice nurses will retire over the next three years.

The think tank Reform has argued,

Community nurses and GPs will spend so much time ‘firefighting’ urgent cases this winter than they may have no time for chronic disease management, one of the UK’s leading GPs has said.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, says patients could be waiting up to four weeks to see their GP over the winter period because demand is so high.

 PA
Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, has said
patients could be waiting weeks to
see their doctor as over-stretched
medics struggle to keep waiting times down
Picture: PA

She is ‘profoundly concerned’ about whether practices can cope. Her comments follow predictions earlier this year in a report by the Queen’s Nursing Institute where a third of UK practice nurses will retire over the next three years. 

The think tank Reform has argued, however, that other health professionals such as nurses could take on up to half of GP consultations to ease pressures.  

Dr Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Chronic disease management is the most phenomenal success story of the NHS – every day tens of thousands of people do not die, who would have died 20 to 30 years ago because we are quietly saving them from having heart attacks and strokes and complications of diabetes.’

Knock-on consequences

She added: ‘My worry, the big fear, is that GPs and other healthcare professionals working in the community...if we rein back on preventative care and chronic disease management because we are too busy firefighting the urgent stuff, the knock-on consequences could take years to manifest but they will be very serious indeed. And that would be a tragedy.’

She added: ‘If it's already taking some patients two to three weeks to get in to see a GP for the non-urgent stuff, then by the time three to four weeks has passed the non-urgent stuff may be becoming urgent.

'With lumps or bleeding problems or things that could be signs of serious disease, my profound concern is people will delay seeking help for things that could potentially be life-threatening or life-changing if they are not tackled swiftly.’ 

'Worrying'

An NHS England spokesperson said that GP services would receive an extra £2.4 billion in real terms investment by 2020, which would ‘expand access to convenient appointments throughout the week.’ 

Labour's shadow health minister, Julie Cooper, said: 'These developments are extremely worrying. The government needs to wake up to the fact that there is a full-scale crisis in the NHS at every level.’

Health Education England is preparing a practice nurse strategy for publication in 2017, to boost recruitment, retention and training opportunities among practice nurses. 


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