Not enough GPs to meet demand, say doctors as NHS plans appointment-booking app

Monday, July 2, 2018

A new NHS app which will help patients book GP consultations can't "create appointments out of nowhere", a leading doctor has said.

The chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee said that while the app “has potential”, there are not enough GPs to meet demand.

"It cannot create appointments out of nowhere,” said Dr Richard Vautrey.

“One of the fundamental problems facing general practice is that there are not enough GPs to meet rising demand, meaning patients wait longer and doctors face unmanageable workloads.

"So, while innovation such as this app has potential, the Government's priority must be to address the workforce crisis."

The NHS will have its 70th anniversary on July 5.

'Death knell' of appointment scramble

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called the app the "death knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments".

Earlier, the chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs warned that nearly every GP surgery in England is short of a family doctor.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said there is a "crisis" in the GP workforce.

In an interview with the Press Association, she said that many doctors are so overwhelmed with workload pressures that they feel they are "not providing a safe enough service".

She said that there is a lack of GPs equivalent to every practice in England needing an extra doctor.

Digital channels 'preferred'

Testing of the new app, which will be available for patients in England, begins in September and it is expected to be ready to download from the App Store or Google Play in December.

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive of NHS Digital, said: "We are working hard to deliver the Secretary of State's vision for an NHS app which provides much easier access for individuals to key NHS services.

"I have no doubt that people will hugely welcome the ability to access self-help diagnostic tools, more easily book GP appointments, view test results and order repeat prescriptions, and tell us about their personal preferences with respect to organ donation, use of their data and other aspects of their care.

"We all know that demand for precious NHS services is escalating, and for a large portion of the population digital channels are a preferred means of access to data and services, so this is an opportunity to provide the easier access people want and relieve some burden from frontline providers."

NHS 'a laggard'

Speaking on the breakfast show with Julia Hartley-Brewer, Kate Andrews from free market think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs said the NHS was a "laggard" when it came to its level of service.

"If you look at international comparisons, NHS is a laggard in many areas," she said.

"It’s on par with the Czech Republic or Slovenia, it would never be compared to Iceland or other countries that do better and still offer universal healthcare."

Iceland, like the UK, has a state-funded healthcare system which is funded almost entirely by taxes, and some service charges.

It spends less per person on healthcare than the UK, but also has a considerably smaller population - just over 334,000 compared to the UK's 65.6 million.