‘We can only do so much’: Chesterfield GP speaks of unprecedented demand facing surgeries

GP surgeries across Derbyshire are facing unprecedented demand as we come out of the pandemic – and patients are being urged to ‘be kind’ to ‘very tired and weary’ staff.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 10:25 am
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 10:31 am

NHS figures show Derbyshire GPs put on 40,000 more appointments in March compared with both 2019 and 2020.

In February, they offered 25 per cent more appointments than the year before.

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Dr Peter-John Flann, of Avenue House Surgery in Chesterfield. Pictures by Brian Eyre.
Dr Peter-John Flann, of Avenue House Surgery in Chesterfield. Pictures by Brian Eyre.

Dr Peter-John Flann, of Avenue House Surgery on Saltergate, Chesterfield, has been a GP for 22 years.

He told the Derbyshire Times: “I think this is the busiest I’ve ever known it from a demand point of view.

“Demand is extremely high for a number of reasons.

“We’re coming out of Covid so understandably a lot of patients have held on to things or built up things over quite a long period of time. A lot of these patients now need to be seen or need to have contact with their GP.

Some patients have blamed lack of access to GPs for a surge in numbers attending casualty at Chesterfield Royal Hospital.

“Coming out of Covid, I also think there’s a lot of expectation to try and get back to normality, and I think at the moment maybe sometimes people are coming to us with queries and problems they would have held on to a little bit longer before – that’s not to say it’s their fault, it’s an anxiety from Covid.

“On top of that, there are still members of staff who are ill or off work because of Covid – and a number of staff have young children and if they get any symptoms then obviously they need to isolate at home until they get a negative test.

“Staff are very tired and weary because Covid has been going on for such a long time – and with the increased demand now hitting us, it’s very hard.”

In recent weeks, a number of readers have contacted the Derbyshire Times to complain that they can’t get a face-to-face appointment with their GP.

Dr Flann at his desk.

Dr Flann said: “Our doors have never been closed to patients for face-to-face appointments – but we need to make sure every contact is appropriate so we don’t give a patient or staff any infection risk.

“When the pandemic started, we and most other practices changed the way we work – everything went to a triage system to reduce the risk for patients coming in to the surgery and also staff.

“Essentially, everyone was triaged but we always saw patients who needed to be seen and we continue to do that now.”

Nationally, there have been reports of GPs facing abuse and aggression from patients.

Dr Flann said he generally found most people to be understanding but added: “There’s a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, a lot of mental health problems from Covid, and I think patients need to remember that primary care is there to support and help them.

“We have limited resources, limited staff, limited budgets, and we can only do so much.

“I’d say be kind to staff as much as you can and remember we are here for you.”

He also reminded patients that they might want to consider using other services – including NHS 111, pharmacies and self-referral to physiotherapy – so GPs can see those with the most pressing health concerns.

The Derbyshire Mental Health Helpline and Support Service, meanwhile, can be contacted on 0800 028 0077.

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