The government is refusing to act on Covid. By doing so it is exacerbating a crisis that is increasing rapidly. This tweet from the editor of the Health Services Journal neatly summarises that:
What is not being said enough is what this means for the rest of the NHS.
As we now know the consequence of Covid is that 5 million people are waiting for some form of NHS treatment. Many of them are quite sick, or in pain. The knock-on effect on GPs is staggering. I listened to a broadcast by a Cambridgeshire GP on local radio, I think this week. They noted that because of their practice management software they could log how many patient contacts they had a day. A year ago on a day in early October they had about 450, as I recall. This year on the same equivalent day of the week (days of the week matter in the NHS) they had almost 1,000 more i.e. about 1,450.
The explanation was simple. There were three. The first was that there are more worried people, although many might not have symptoms that really required a GP contact. For these people a pharmacy should be their port of call, which is why the demand for face-to-face appointments is so misplaced.
The second is much more serious. Because people with acute conditions cannot see specialists their conditions are becoming chronic. The treatment of those chronic conditions is now falling on GPs. Many can create co-morbidities as a result. This then escalates the care that they need. Without an end in sight to hospital waiting lists - not least because the government is deliberately letting hospitals fill with Covid patients again - this can only get worse.
Third, GPs are having to see people who should be seen by social care because social care is overwhelmed.
The GP's questions were simple, again as I recall. They were:
- How were they meant to deal with this?
- For how long could they deal with this before people broke?
- Why was the government making issues worse?
- Why were GPs being blamed for something not of their creation?
The simple fact is that 'just in time' medicine has failed in the UK. That's because of Covid of course, but it is now much more to do with the failure of the government response to Covid than anything else. As with Brexit, and as data shows, this is a peculiarly Brit9ish failure only capable of explanation by looking at the British exceptionalism that has created it.
The GP's questions were the right ones to ask. My concern is that this cannot be sustained for long.
What then? How many people must die before things change? And why should they have to do so? The job of government is to protect people from harm, and in the process deliver freedom from fear. This government is creating harm and stoking fear. Why are we tolerating that? For how long will we do so?