GPs and patients are at loggerheads over appointments as family doctors struggle to cope with a “tsunami” of previously unmet needs, a meeting heard.
The use of online consultation has helped create a massive 25 per cent increase in the number of people seeking appointments, the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) partnership board heard.
Dr Jason Reddy, a GP in Sharnbrook, near Bedford, said: “We have made a rod for our own back by going to these remote consultations.
“It becomes very easy for patients to access e-consultations and then put 1,2,3,4,5 as their problems.
“The issue with that is of course there has to be somebody looking at that and addressing it.“
Dr Reddy, who told the meeting that GPs are being involved in planning for a possible “third wave” of COVID, added: “We’re tired and yet we are now being hit by a tsunami of pent-up demand that’s hitting us all at once.
“That’s the big picture in terms of explaining to the public why they can’t get to see or even speak to their doctors.”
Bedford Cllr Louise Jackson, the borough’s health and well-being portfolio holder, said: “I can see the benefits of remote consultation but for some people it is genuinely frightening to have to work in that way and I don’t think we’ve done enough to help people understand.”
Dr Tayo Kufeji, a GP partner at the Newport Pagnell Medical Centre in Milton Keynes warned of potential staff burn out that has to be addressed.
And Dr Monica Alabi, a Luton GP, wanted to know what was happening to help patients understand why “they can’t just come in and have a chat.”
But Maxine Taffetani, the chief executive of patients’ watchdog group Healthwatch Milton Keynes said: “From a patient’s perspective it’s difficult because each individual practice or network often has a different approach.
“Patients aren’t getting the same experience and they talk to each other. It’s very visible on social media that people do feel that when they need a face to face appointment there are a lot of barriers in place to achieving that.”
Felicity Cox, the executive lead at BLMK, said: “25 per cent more people are seeking appointments” and this is leading to people “taking out their frustrations” on receptionists“.
She added that they are trying to bring GPs and patients together to better understand each others’ views, at the same time as developing a strategy aimed at telling patients what has changed in general practice.