General practice in Cornwall 'on the brink of crisis', says LMC

General practice in Cornwall is 'on the brink of a crisis' and may not cope this winter if there is a surge of flu and other respiratory illnesses alongside a rise in COVID-19 cases, the county's LMC has warned.

(Photo: Robert Johns/UNP)
(Photo: Robert Johns/UNP)

Kernow LMC said practices in Cornwall are already dealing with an unmanageable workload and it feared that they would not have the resources or resilience to handle any additional pressure in the coming months.

The LMC said practices in the area had been 'overwhelmed' by delivering the majority of the COVID-19 vaccination programme on top of the increased workload practices are experiencing day to day.

It said exceptionally long waits for ambulances transferring patients meant that GPs were spending longer managing acutely unwell patients. Meanwhile, increased waiting times for outpatient appointments at local hospitals as a result of the pandemic had left practice handling a huge rise in enquiries and appointments from those waiting for treatment.

Workforce shortages

The problems were compounded by a shortage of GP and practice nurses, the LMC said.

The warning comes after the BMA last week said that underfunding and government inaction had left general practice across the country unable to guarantee 'timely, high-quality care' for patients. A petition calling for increased funding for general practice, launched as part of the association's 'Support your Surgery' campaign, has been signed by more than 10,000 people.

Kernow LMC chair Dr Nick Rogers said practices in Cornwall needed 'urgent support' from local health system partners 'to help manage demand, stabilise the workforce and release capacity' in order to deal with an expected increase in work this winter.

He added that the local health system also needed to 'find ways to plan ahead for crisis points'.

'This is a very serious situation – but I would like to reassure patients that general practice in Cornwall is open, is seeing patients face to face and has been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to do so,' Dr Rogers said.

'We are working as hard, fast and safely as possible to deliver the best outcomes for our patients, set against the challenges faced.'

Increase in appointments

The LMC highlighted that in July practices across the county and delivered 326,570 appointments, 59% of which were face to face.

GPonline reported earlier this year that general practice appointments across England in June this year were up almost a third compared with June 2019 - before the pandemic - once COVID-19 vaccine work was factored in.

Kernow LMC has asked patients to help by only making an appointment at their surgery if their health concern could not be managed at home or by using the local pharmacy. It also called on patients to respect frontline practice staff and receptionists if they were finding it difficult to get through to their practice on the phone.

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