Health

Mail on Sunday launches campaign urging NHS bosses to let us all see our GPs face to face again

If there’s one story which encapsulates the misery of households as GPs stay behind closed doorways throughout this pandemic, then that is it. And to well being chiefs who proceed to insist sufferers ought to solely be seen face-to-face the place completely vital, it ought to function a warning shot: to open up ALL surgical procedures again, or threat many extra households being devastated, similar to this…

It was October final year, earlier than the second wave of the pandemic had taken maintain, when Elaine Gordon contacted her GP follow within the North West.

Fit and wholesome, and in her mid-50s, Elaine hardly ever bothered her physician.



The former nurse, a faithful grandmother, was a full-time carer to her husband Mark, who has late-stage a number of sclerosis and is not cellular.

Her sister-in-law Sarah describes her as ‘robust’ and ‘the glue that holds our family together’. But she had turn into so unwell she was unable to get away from bed. In her groin was an uncommon swelling. 

The Mail on Sunday has launched a campaign urging NHS bosses to let us all see our GPs face to face again, after first highlighting the frustrations and fears of sufferers solely allowed cellphone or video calls with their physician final November

Her GP follow supplied her a phone name with a follow nurse, whose first question was whether or not she had had any new sexual companions. The insensitivity, given the follow’s information of her husband’s situation, distressed Elaine a lot that she put down the cellphone in tears.

Over the following few weeks her situation deteriorated quickly.

She lost three stone in weight, was unable to stand for various minutes and was coated in unexplained bruises and boils, together with the swelling in her groin.

There had been common calls to the GP follow, usually from Elaine’s two daughters who had been desperately fearful about her, however she was nonetheless not supplied an appointment – both by phone, or face-to-face – with a physician.

In late November, Elaine was seen by a follow nurse, who carried out some blood checks. The outcomes, despatched to the follow from the laboratory, really helpful she was referred to an oncologist, and the surgical procedure invited her in to talk about them.

By then, Elaine couldn’t stand unaided. Yet reception workers initially refused to let her within the constructing, insisting face-to-face appointments had been for ‘serious cases only’.

Her GP did refer her to a most cancers specialist, however insisted it was unlikely to be ‘anything sinister’. He was unsuitable. During a hospital appointment, Elaine was advised she was not solely in kidney failure, however severely ailing with uncommon and extremely aggressive Burkitt lymphoma.

Four rounds of chemotherapy later she stays in hospital, her prognosis unsure.

Lewis was refused an appointment… and lost a kidney

Landscape gardener Lewis Moon, 36, has lost a lot of the operate in one in all his kidneys after he was refused a face-to-face appointment to deal with a urine an infection.

Lewis, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, developed a headache and fever in September and, two days later, began to really feel discomfort when going to the toilet.

The following day, a Sunday, his fever worsened and he started experiencing ache round his proper kidney, and concluded that he had a urine an infection.

He rang his GP surgical procedure as quickly because it opened on Monday morning, and was supplied a phone session with a nurse.

‘She was asking me what I thought was wrong,’ he says. ‘I explained how much pain I was in and she agreed it was probably a urinary tract infection and prescribed antibiotics.’

But as the extent of ache elevated and he began vomiting, Lewis rang the surgical procedure twice extra however was nonetheless refused an appointment with a physician. After cellphone calls with a nurse, he was supplied liquid painkillers and antibiotics which might be simpler to maintain down. Lewis says: ‘By 4am the following day, after 12 hours of not keeping even fluids down and nearly 48 hours after first contacting the GP, my girlfriend Rebecka drove me straight to A&E, where I was put on a drip and spent the next five days on a ward.’

Specialists advised Lewis the extent of C-reactive protein in his physique – an indication of irritation or an infection – was above 550mg/litre. A standard result’s 10mg/litre, which means that Lewis was combating a extreme an infection.

He has since seen a renal specialist for an imaging scan on his kidneys, which revealed the precise organ is now performing at solely ten per cent of its regular stage and have steered eradicating it.

‘The specialist said the high levels of C-reactive protein had likely caused more damage to the kidney, and that if I’d been seen sooner main harm might have been prevented. If the physician had seen me, in particular person, then they’d have realised how ailing I used to be.

‘Although I can live a normal life on one kidney, it could have been avoided. Was I fobbed off because I was young?’

For this sort of blood most cancers, catching it early is vital. The hospital has written to Elaine’s GP surgical procedure to set up why she was not seen sooner – however there was no reply.

Elaine’s sister-in-law Sarah contacted The Mail on Sunday after studying the ‘horror stories’ from different determined sufferers who’ve struggled to see their household docs all through the pandemic.

Although they wished their story to be advised, Sarah requested us to use pseudonyms, for privateness causes whereas Elaine stays in hospital. We, in fact, agreed to this.

‘People are dying because they’re not in a position to see their GP,’ Sarah says. ‘We are completely devastated by what has happened to Elaine.

‘What she experienced wasn’t care, it was an absolute lack of it. Worse, it was disinterest.

‘To compound it all, my brother has been refused even telephone appointments despite his records clearly showing he is extremely susceptible to chest infections and may need antibiotics regularly. Twice my nieces have resorted to calling 111, which despatched an ambulance.

‘When one of my nieces finally lost her temper and raised her voice to the practice manager, she was told that her call would be terminated because she wasn’t being “very nice”. My niece identified that just about killing their mum and pa was additionally not very good.

‘The distress and despair caused to our family has been shocking and, it seems, is being repeated for patients and their families across the country.’

Sarah is true – not less than, if the 1,000-plus letters to The Mail on Sunday are something to go by.

Since November, once we started writing concerning the issues sufferers have skilled attempting to contact their GP throughout the pandemic, they’ve been piling up. And the newest batch, over the previous month alone, are probably the most distressing but.

A major quantity describe going to A&E after being unable to even get by way of to their GP on the cellphone. Some had been hospitalised with situations which, had they been caught earlier, might have been simply handled at dwelling. Others, heartbreakingly, have endured the dying of a associate.

Eric Jones, 76, lost his beloved spouse, Joyce, 75, final August to lobar pneumonia, which developed into lethal sepsis.

Her situation was misdiagnosed as a easy chest an infection throughout a phone session along with her GP. Eric tells the story within the panel on the precise.

That surgical procedure doorways stay largely closed is turning into more and more incomprehensible. Over the previous week, new Covid infections have fallen to a median of two,000 a day, and deaths to single figures.

Scotland recorded per week with no deaths at all.

In per week’s time, pub-goers shall be in a position to get pleasure from an indoor pint and the Government has revealed a ‘green list’ for nations we will journey to and from with out restriction.

But the steerage on how surgical procedures ought to function throughout the pandemic, launched by NHS England, stay firmly in place – and at present, The Mail on Sunday launches a brand new campaign to demand a shift in pondering.

While digital and distant companies have supplied comfort to some, they’ve brought about a lot distress to many others.

And so we’re demanding that NHS England adjustments its steerage so all GPs should prioritise seeing sufferers face-to-face again – and that they’re given sufficient resources and help to achieve this. 

'Fobbed off': Lewis Moon, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, pictured above with his girlfriend Rebecka, was only offered a telephone appointment with a nurse

‘Fobbed off’: Lewis Moon, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, pictured above together with his girlfriend Rebecka, was solely supplied a phone appointment with a nurse

GP leaders level to the truth that the proportion of appointments being held face-to-face is recovering. That’s true: NHS Digital figures present the variety of sufferers being seen in particular person in March had doubled to 15 million, in contrast with the primary wave peak in April final year. 

That represents about 55 per cent of all appointments, nonetheless considerably down on the 80 to 85 per cent face-to-face consultations earlier than the pandemic.

But a more in-depth take a look at the figures reveals that solely a couple of third of those had been really with GPs – the rest had been with nurses and different healthcare workers. Before Covid, the vast majority of in-person appointments had been with GPs.

This state of affairs is unlikely to get significantly better. In truth, the Government desires these adjustments to be everlasting. An NHS England paper revealed in March says that much more appointments ought to be on-line in future.

IT’S A FACT

The common GP surgical procedure at present has about 8,500 sufferers on its books – up from roughly 6,000 15 years in the past.

This is about adopting what it calls ‘total triage’.

This coverage is what’s occurring now – sufferers clarify why they need to be seen by finishing a web based type or talking to a receptionist, and workers will then determine whether or not they want a phone appointment with a nurse, GP or different healthcare employee, or whether or not they need to be seen in particular person.

This was all the time on the playing cards even earlier than the pandemic, however some say Covid has offered the right excuse to velocity up its supply.

A reader from Essex, who requested not to be named, mentioned: ‘I’m all for some type of triage however we have to be allowed to really bodily seek the advice of with our GPs again. My greatest fear all through this pandemic has not been catching the virus however that issues, in each stroll of life, would by no means return to the way in which they had been, and evidently goes to be the case.’

Two readers contacted us to say their GP practices, each in Kent, had already introduced they might be ‘digital first’ completely – which implies all appointments can have to be booked on-line.

This was described in affected person leaflets as an ‘upgraded service’ which meant sufferers would not ‘wait in a phone queue to speak to the surgery as patients can quickly and easily make contact online’.

Such measures are designed to ease issues that existed lengthy earlier than the pandemic. Over the previous decade, a whole bunch of practices have closed or been merged regardless of a rising inhabitants, whereas many GPs are leaving or retiring early due to burnout or stress, and fewer are being recruited.

The Government guidance on how surgeries should operate during the pandemic, introduced by NHS England, remain firmly in place ¿ and today, The Mail on Sunday launches a new campaign to demand a shift in thinking (file photo)

The Government steerage on how surgical procedures ought to function throughout the pandemic, launched by NHS England, stay firmly in place – and at present, The Mail on Sunday launches a brand new campaign to demand a shift in pondering (file photograph)

The pandemic has merely exacerbated these points, in accordance to senior docs, whereas the vaccination programme has added further strain to an unprecedented workload.

According to Dr Alison George, a GP who selected to start working in A&E final year after her follow elected to proceed with distant appointments, the present mannequin is ‘failing patients’ and ‘like practising medicine blindfolded’.

‘This is a catastrophe waiting to happen,’ she says.

‘Remote consulting definitely has a place in modern primary care, but it is not in the best interests of patients or GPs. I’ve had sufferers coming in to A&E, delirious with sepsis, who would have been given a psychological well being referral over the cellphone. They would have died in a single day had they not are available in.

GP recognized my spouse by cellphone with chest an infection… but it surely was sepsis

Eric Jones lost his beloved spouse Joyce in August when a bout of pneumonia swiftly developed into deadly sepsis.

The grandparents, from Wilmslow, had been married for 57 years and had two sons.

Keen gardener Joyce, 75, was ‘fit as a flea’, says Eric, 76, and was even taking care of him after just lately suffered two strokes.

But she started feeling ‘weak and knackered’, and the following day couldn’t get away from bed, so Eric dialled the NHS 111 helpline for recommendation. The service then contacted his GP, who rang him again the identical day.

‘I was trying to describe what was wrong – it was as if her lights had gone out,’ he says. ‘I was emotional, as this wasn’t like her at all. The GP mentioned it was nothing greater than a chest an infection and despatched spherical antibiotics. There was no suggestion of a go to.’

But quickly Joyce couldn’t stroll. In desperation, and unwilling to navigate by way of to the GP again, Eric rang his physiotherapy clinic, which suggested that he dial 999. An ambulance was dispatched which took Joyce to Macclesfield District General Hospital, however she died later that day.

‘I can’t show that if the GP had seen her in particular person it might have modified the result,’ Eric says. ‘But part of me believes that if they’d seen how ailing she was, she should be alive at present.

‘The nurse on the intensive care unit where Joyce was taken was livid – she couldn’t consider the GP was relying on me to inform them what was unsuitable.

‘I’m devastated. It’s nonetheless so uncooked. We had a lifetime collectively.’

‘I’ve noticed melanoma pores and skin cancers in sufferers who’ve are available in for different issues, and Parkinson’s in a affected person simply due to the way in which she walked into the consulting room, however the digital mannequin removes the choice of opportunistic or preventative healthcare. It treats a symptom, not the affected person.

‘This is a cheap way of dealing with the problems in GP recruitment and it’s outrageous. Of course, those that help it say GPs do nonetheless have the choice of seeing sufferers in particular person, however we all know from the present state of affairs that that is merely not occurring in some circumstances.

‘All GPs need to be seeing patients in person or we risk a disaster in primary care – I’m already seeing the outcomes of it in A&E.’

There can be proof the shift to on-line is, paradoxically, growing that workload even additional – by making GPs simpler to entry.

Some practices in Kent have even been turning off their on-line types within the evenings and at weekends as a result of they’ve been ‘inundated’ with calls for.

This is backed by a research by Chris Salisbury, a professor of major care on the University of Bristol, which discovered ‘digital first’ entry, utilizing on-line session types, drove GPs’ workload up by 25 per cent as a result of many sufferers wanted to be seen again in particular person.

One GP follow even wrote a letter to its sufferers final week, primarily blaming them for a flood of enquiries which overwhelmed its service.

Ivy Grove Surgery, in Ripley, Derbyshire, mentioned sufferers weren’t doing sufficient to take care of themselves and had been presenting them with ‘a shopping list of multiple problems’. ‘We are quite sure that you would not see your solicitor in a single appointment slot (however long might be allocated) and present them, without warning, with an employment contract issue, a divorce issue and a boundary dispute issue, all of which need resolving by the end of the appointment,’ the letter learn. ‘However, as GPs, we are frequently expected to deal with three or four problems within a ten-minute time slot.

‘That is exactly 150 seconds to deal with each problem. Count them. You will all know that this is not humanly possible with the laws of physics being what they currently are.’

Many GPs have applauded the letter’s honesty, however others mentioned it was inappropriate to blame sufferers for its issues and would add to their distress.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday’s Medical Minefield podcast final week, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Martin Marshall, acknowledged that each workers and sufferers had been careworn and sad with the present state of affairs. While it’s unsuitable to blame sufferers for at present’s pressures, he mentioned it was additionally unsuitable to blame household docs.

‘There simply aren’t sufficient GPs to present the type of care we used to present,’ he mentioned. ‘This is a crisis which only policymakers can sort out. And it doesn’t appear honest to be blaming GPs for what is actually a scarcity of resources.’

Ominously, he additionally suggests distant companies might turn into the brand new regular: ‘General practice is changing. And I think it will take some time for the public to get used to that.’

This will come as no consolation to the scores of readers who write to this newspaper, exhausted and upset by the state of affairs.

Eric Jones lost his beloved wife Joyce (pictured above) in August when a bout of pneumonia swiftly developed into fatal sepsis. A GP diagnosed her over the phone with a chest infection

Eric Jones lost his beloved spouse Joyce (pictured above) in August when a bout of pneumonia swiftly developed into deadly sepsis. A GP recognized her over the cellphone with a chest an infection

One 83-year-old, who has been with the identical follow for 50 years and lives with bronchial asthma, Crohn’s illness and continual obstructive pulmonary illness (COPD), advised us: ‘I am obviously of no interest because of my age, and for the first time in my life I am suffering from depression.’

Another reader, writing about her 96-year-old aunt who has no cell phone or web entry, mentioned her GP failed to contact her about her Covid vaccine.

‘We have since found out that others who do not have access to modern technology were also missed off the list,’ she wrote. ‘It appears this surgery doesn’t know the way to use a landline.’

But even those that can use the know-how really feel let down. Di Heenan, in Manchester, additionally ended up on an antibiotic drip in hospital for twenty-four hours after her GP, throughout a video name, mentioned her foot an infection was ‘just a big blister’. ‘I wasn’t joyful – and neither was the A&E physician,’ wrote Di.

IT’S A FACT

800 UK GP practices have closed prior to now eight years, forcing 2.5 million sufferers to go elsewhere, the docs’ journal Pulse reported.

Julie Shepherd in West Sussex mentioned she and her husband managed his diabetes ‘all on our own’ following an operation to take away a part of his pancreas simply earlier than the pandemic. ‘He has experienced sepsis three times in the past year and we have had to fight continuously to get his prescriptions, battling our way through the surgery’s cellphone name system and the receptionists,’ Mrs Shepherd mentioned.

‘If it hadn’t been for the truth that I work for the NHS and have contacts at work, my husband would in all probability be lifeless.’

She added: ‘We now have no faith at all in getting any help if he is sick again. I don’t hassle any extra – I simply take him to A&E, like I did final time when he had chest ache and respiratory difficulties and ended up having a coronary stent inserted.

‘Perhaps if he had his regular check-ups and someone from the surgery had followed him up, this could have been avoided.’

Yet one other reader, whose spouse had beforehand been recognized with the blood most cancers continual lymphocytic leukaemia, was advised to attempt throat lozenges throughout a phone session when she complained of breathlessness and issues swallowing.

He selected to have her seen privately – and the marketing consultant instantly admitted her to hospital and recognized her with an aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which had unfold to her lungs, and sepsis.

‘I have no doubt whatsoever that, had I not paid privately to see that consultant, my wife wouldn’t be alive at present,’ he wrote.

‘The whole practice is an utter disgrace as they have lost sight of why they are there. Their attitude is putting people’s lives in danger – however they couldn’t care much less.’

One involved affected person from Kent speaks for everybody. She wrote: ‘It is time, urgently, for NHS England to rectify the situation.’

NHS England was requested concerning the detailed considerations raised above, however failed to add something to its earlier statements. A spokesman mentioned GP ‘teams’ had been providing face-to-face appointments, and added the NHS would ‘continue to regularly review the process for accessing appointments’.

We simply wanted some reassurance

By Dan Hyde, Mail on Sunday Assistant Editor

I keep away from a go to to the physician’s surgical procedure just like the plague, however there are moments in life when nothing else will do.

One of these instances sneaked up on me and my spouse Katie shortly after the start of our first youngster, Freddy, seven weeks in the past.

He was bothered by some signs that had lingered since he was born, and a night Googling solely dredged up a heap of nonsense that left us none the wiser.

Dan Hyde, above, with his wife Katie and first child, Freddy, who was born seven weeks ago

Dan Hyde, above, together with his spouse Katie and first youngster, Freddy, who was born seven weeks in the past

So the following day we known as our GP and requested if we might pop in – we wished reassurance from an expert who might poke and prod Freddy and inform us every little thing was going to be all proper. Any new dad or mum will bear in mind these terrifying days when, sleep-deprived like by no means earlier than, you are worried that each cough or cry is an indication you’re getting it dangerously unsuitable.

Yet the receptionist at our often faultless GP surgical procedure might barely have been much less accommodating. No, we couldn’t see the GP – they might cellphone us later that day.

When the GP known as, he mentioned he couldn’t give us definitive recommendation with out seeing Freddy, and so he booked us an pressing appointment for that night… at one other surgical procedure. This solely made us extra anxious.

The physician who noticed us had no notes on Freddy, nor even any data on why we had been there. Thankfully, it took her not more than ten minutes to determine there was nothing unsuitable with him. More importantly, we had been despatched dwelling with the comforting phrases that may solely ever be delivered face-to-face.

Quite why our personal GP couldn’t have accomplished the identical, I don’t know – and neither did the marvellous physician we did see.

What’s actually inflicting this disaster? We grill Britain’s chief GP on MEDICAL MINEFIELD

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