Non-English speakers make demand management difficult in London, says RCGP

High numbers of non-English speakers in London are making demand management more difficult for GP practices, the RCGP chairwoman has told politicians.

Dr Maureen Baker
Dr Maureen Baker

Giving evidence to a London Assembly health committee hearing on the NHS workforce on Wednesday Dr Maureen Baker said that greater use of telephone triage and consultation systems were more difficult to implement in the capital because of the high numbers of people without English as a first language.

Responding to questions from Kit Malthouse - Conservative MP for North West Hampshire and London Assembly member for West Central London - about the effect of the workforce crisis on patient access, Dr Baker set out concerns about demand management in London.

While phone triage systems could be successful in some areas like her own practice in Lincolnshire where more than 90% of patients speak English as a first language, she argued, it could be more difficult in London.

GP access

‘You have got one sense on the telephone - you are using your hearing,' she said. ‘Where a significant number of patients have poor English or little English, that way of working becomes very much more difficult. I would suggest that in London, you have many practices where it would be a lot more difficult to use these ways.’

Yesterday GPonline revealed that changes to NHS England’s funding allocation formula for general practice as well as population projections would see a shift if the share of funding to London away from northern parts of England. The capital will see its share of GP funding increased by almost 6% over the next five years. London's allocation will rise around 22% over the next five years while other parts of the country face increases below 14%.

London GPs have been calling for changes to the GMS funding formula to better reflect the increased workload caused by deprivation and high numbers of non-English speakers.

Dr Baker also told assembly members that while the capital had not been hit as hard by the current recruitment crisis as other parts of the country because young doctors wanted to train and work in the capital, retention of older GPs was a problem.

GP recruitment

‘We also have concerns about recruitment and retention of other members of the practice team, in particular practice nurses and community, district nurses not employed by practices but very much part of primary care in the community,’ she said.

‘There is a shortage of practice nurses. They tend to be older and coming up to retirement.’

GPonline reported earlier this year on a poll that found a third of practice nurses plan to quit in the next five years, while two thirds say they are underpaid.

The RCGP leader said the capital was particularly badly affected by the difficulties securing new premises or land to build.

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