50m Won’t Get Appointments by 2020, 100m Will Wait Over a Week

CEO & Founder of our parent company Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses the RCGP’s new warnings on waiting times for doctor appointments over the coming years.

lee-headshot

Pulse Today has reported yet more worrying news for the NHS this week, and it’ll come as little surprise to many of you that it involves a rise in GP appointment waiting times.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned that, should current trends continue, there will be almost one hundred million instances where patients are forced to wait for over a week to see a GP at an NHS surgery by 2020.

The estimated rise of waiting times is nothing new, and unfortunately has become a spiralling problem for the NHS. What is particularly concerning, though, is that this new analysis also reveals that on 50 million occasions patients will not be able to get a GP appointment at all in four years’ time. That’s 50 million patients who will simply not have access to healthcare when they need it. This is unacceptable and simply cannot be allowed to become a reality.

To put the severity of this predicted rise into context – last year there were 9.4m occasions when patients could not get a GP appointment and didn’t seek healthcare elsewhere; by 2020/21 it could be approximately 47m.

Chair of the RCGP, Dr Maureen Baker, described the new figures as evidence that general practice in the UK is “in crisis.”


“The fact that, if current trends continue, patients will have to wait to see their GP for more than a week on almost 100 million occasions by 2020 is shocking – and poses a clear risk to the health of thousands and patients.

“We now need a guarantee from the new Prime Minister, the new Chancellor and the health secretary that the GP Forward View will be delivered in full.”

Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP Chair


The aforementioned General Practice Forward View sets out a plan, backed by a multi-billion pound investment, to stabilise and transform general practice in the UK. It commits an extra £2.4 billion per year to support GP services by 2021.

For me, it’s absolutely imperative that the funds being promised in this forward view are not just delivered, but used wisely on actions that will visibly improve the situation for the NHS.

We remain committed to doing out part to ease pressures and strains on the NHS by embracing mHealth technologies and helping patients gain convenient and affordable access to primary healthcare. As these new RCGP figures sure, mHealth is exactly what the health service needs right now and we’re excited to help make a real difference through this innovative and effective technology.

 


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn, and you can also follow me on Twitter.


Average GP Appointment Waiting Times Hit 2 Weeks

In his latest blog, CEO & Founder of Now Healthcare Group looks at more worrying statistics concerning NHS appointment waiting times and how mHealth services such as Now GP can be used to alleviate strain on the nation’s healthcare system.

lee-headshot

As the strain and pressures on the National Health Service continue to mount, patients continue to suffer from an inefficient and increasingly unreliable service. Pulse Today revealed last week that another survey has been conducted which makes for bleak reading for those in the healthcare sector.

Many of you won’t be surprised to hear that this worrying news is related to GP appointment waiting times which have, of course, once again increased. The survey, answered by over 830 respondents, reveals that the average waiting time to see a doctor in this country is now 13 days. This is up from 10 days on the same period for last year, meaning that the average GP appointment waiting time has increased by 30% annually.


It’s estimated that a 17 day wait for a GP appointment could be the norm by 2017


To make matters worse, it is anticipated that this figure will increase next year – many are already suggesting a 17 day wait could be the norm by June 2017.

Earlier this month it was revealed that some GP practices had been forced to stop providing bookable appointments and only accepting patients seeking emergency consultations due to continued workload pressures. As these kind of drastic measures become more and more commonplace across the UK, it’s obvious that the general practice crisis is having a real effect on patients.


“Waiting two weeks for an appointment… is dangerous for patients and incredibly risky” – Lee Dentith


My concern is that waiting two weeks for an appointment is much more than just an inconvenience – it’s dangerous for patients and incredibly risky. At Now Healthcare Group we regularly champion the importance of early intervention when it comes to primary care issues; the quicker a GP can spot and diagnose a problem, the quicker you can be on your way back to full health. Waiting two weeks for health advice can see issues worsen, making them more difficult to cure and increasing the risk of it becoming more serious.

On top of this, it’s very impractical for those patients who work on a full-time basis; they’re forced to either take time off work to attend a clinic, or potentially spread their sickness around the office through what is known as the “presenteeism” problem.

gp waiting times average

 

What’s frustrating from our point of view is that our service has been designed to combat this ongoing appointment crisis. Mobile health solutions such as Now GP are intended to alleviate pressures on the NHS by making appointments more accessible – the majority of our patients are able to speak to a qualified GP within ten minutes of requesting an appointment.

Simply put, the NHS needs to embrace services such as Now GP in order to ensure that the quality and reliability of healthcare that people in the UK receive does not fall. By offering patients access to mHealth platforms, the NHS will be able to significantly reduce appointment waiting times, demand in general and make healthcare generally more accessible and convenient for people. We’re not looking to compete with the NHS in the primary care market – we want to work together to put an end to this rapidly spiraling accessibility problem.


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

 


4 Million Now Queue for Same-Day Appointments

In this week’s blog, Lee Dentith – CEO and Founder of Now Healthcare Group – looks at yet more worrying statistics concerning primary healthcare access in the UK.

lee-headshot

The winter flu season may finally be over, but sadly the pressure on NHS surgeries continues to mount. Another day, another series of statistics revealed from a rather damning survey of over 9,000 UK patients from across the country.

What stood out most to me was the fact that the number of people forced to physically queue for an appointment at their local NHS surgery has risen to an astonishing FOUR MILLION. Elderly and unwell patients are, in some cases, forced to queue outside the surgery doors in order to get seen on the same day – some are arriving at surgeries at daybreak and still face waits of several hours.

Our surgeries are often so overwhelmed by demand that they are routinely asking patients to wait outside, with those in the Patients Association condemning the situation as unacceptable – prolonging the suffering and discomfort of those who are often in urgent need of medical help.

When it comes to appointment waiting times, the numbers simply continue to get worse and worse – immigration, a shortage of doctors and an increasingly-ageing population are three major contributing factors for why patients in this country are continuing to suffer. The current model of healthcare in the UK just isn’t working, and the stats revealed from this latest survey make this simply undeniable.

Of 9,116 patients surveyed – all of which were in their over 50s – 33% said that they were unable to secure an appointment with a GP within seven days. Incredibly, up to two million are forced to wait for three weeks or more for an appointment, while many patients are routinely made to wait over one month just to see a doctor.

It’s not just the actual appointments which patients are queuing for, either – surgeries receive countless calls each morning from patients requesting to be seen, with many on hold for anywhere between 20 minutes to one hour.

A news article looks in depth at these figures, focusing on surgeries in South England which have become notorious for their lengthy waiting times. North Street Medical Centre (Romford, Essex) allegedly sees as many as 50 people queueing outside of the surgery doors each morning with receptionists admitting that patients “struggle to get a seat” when they do eventually make it into the waiting room. Another surgery in South East London sees queues which are 30-strong with patients regularly waiting up to two and a half hours to be seen.

The Royal College of GPs has pointed towards a shortage of doctors as a major reason for this, with nine in ten surgeries now forced to rely on locums because they are so short of permanent GPs.

To be frank, things need to change and they need to change now. The NHS system continues to creak under continued pressure, and it’s a system which is failing to attract new doctors and one which is also failing its patients.

Our vision as an mHealth organisation is to provide patients and GPs with a much-needed alternative. Our platform embraces flexible working hours for doctors to help them enjoy working in healthcare once again. We give patients the chance to speak to a MRCGP-certified doctor within a ten minute window via smartphone-based video call. We can even arrange for you to have your medicines delivered to your home or work address.

As a nation we need to think about the way we access and offer healthcare and think differently and smarter. We have the technology in place to ensure that patients aren’t forced to physically queue for appointments – it’s archaic and there is no place for it in today’s on-the-go society. It’s time for change, and it’s time to embrace mHealth.


London to be Hit Hard by Surgery Closures

CEO and Founder of Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, looks at the weekend’s worrying GP surgery news, with one in five practices in London expected to close down within the next three years.


Rising demand for appointments, doctor shortages and unmanageable workloads will play havoc with primary healthcare in the capital in the coming months. New research among 644 surgeries has confirmed the worst for London practices, with one in five facing the prospect of closure within three years.

This survey reflects the worrying state of approximately half of the capital’s surgeries. As a result of this relentless pressure and strain, it was found that an eighth of London practices are considering scaling back the services they offer. With onsite primary healthcare already inaccessible for thousands of London-based patients, many will be unsure of where to turn with fewer services available and no local clinic to rely on.

19 surgeries have already announced that they will definitely be closing by 2019, with a further 17% of all London practices not ruling out doing the same. Research points to a shortage of family doctors and an increasingly difficult and unmanageable workload as two of several reasons for the potential closures.

As London’s population continues to accelerate – there’s now 8.6 million living in the capital – the accessibility of reliable primary care at the same time diminishes. We’re edging dangerously close to the system as we know it reaching breaking point, and it’s time to have a serious look at alternatives.

Jeremy Hunt has recently finalised a package of emergency measures to relieve strain on GP services – but will it be enough? I found this quote from Dr Naureen Bhatti, in an interview with The Guardian, particularly powerful:

“We’ve had very few applicants [for our GP job vacancies]. We were surprised because we’ve never had trouble filling our jobs before. But it’s become very difficult in the last six to nine months…The vacancies mean that our workload, which is already heavy and rising, has become enormous. I’m absolutely exhausted. I worked from 8am to 9pm or 10pm every day this week and now I often see patients on what are supposed to my administration days because so many people want an appointment.”

It’s staggering to me how we can let our health service reach this kind of drastic state without taking action earlier. The potential of mobile health services has been known by those in the industry for a long time, and it’s so evident that it’s needed now more than ever.

We want to work with the health service to assist them in a much-needed transition to a more tech-minded approach to healthcare. At times like these the industry needs to come together and work differently – we need to use mHealth to be smarter about how we provide the nation with the care it deserves and so badly needs. Through our service we are able to provide patients with appointments from the comfort of their own home – waiting times, appointment demand and poor access to a GP can all be solved through integration with our innovative app.


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.


Average Patient Numbers Grow for UK Practices

In today’s blog, CEO and Founder of Now GP Lee Dentith looks at the alarming figures revealed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre and how this will affect patients.

lee-headshot

Today’s report from the Health and Social Care Information Centre further highlighted the worrying plight of our country’s healthcare service. Figures show that the average GP practice in the United Kingdom has seen its patient list grow by 2% in just eight months.

2% perhaps doesn’t sound that severe, but if you take into account that this represents about 169 additional patients for certain UK practices to deal with, it has the potential to be incredibly detrimental to the NHS’s ability to look after our nation’s primary healthcare safely.

It’s estimated by Pulse that, should this trend continue, the year on year growth rate for patient numbers in 2015-16 will be 3.5%. What we’re seeing is a significant drop in GP practice numbers combined with a 0.9% increase in the total number of patients registered with a GP across England. The numbers, quite simply, do not add up – we’re seeing local practices and surgeries close at an alarming rate, with as many as 25,000 patients set to lose access to their current GP in the rest of this year alone.

busy nhs waiting room

 

As patient numbers grow, this puts those remaining surgeries under increased pressure. More patients and less doctors can lead to several worrying conclusions, each having an injurious effect on those placed under this added and unnecessary strain.

We can expect these new figures to cause target waiting times to spiral further out of control. With more of us needing access to a GP for our primary healthcare concerns, but with surgeries busier than ever before, it seems clear to me that the health sector needs to think differently to ensure the level of care our nation is provided with does not diminish.

We need to think smarter about the way our patients can receive the primary care that they need, and attention must turn to more alternative, convenient services. In just three years we’ve seen the number of patients forced to wait for a week to see their GP increase by a third – this makes for staggering reading, and it’s imperative that something is done to help.

We live in a time when opportunities for digital and technical innovation are vast, yet the NHS – a pillar of our society for so many years – is dragging its heels and failing to appropriately adapt. We’re working hard to bring our mHealth solution to the masses in an effort to make healthcare convenient and accessible for everyone once again.


For more of Lee’s thoughts, follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn

 


10 Million Left Frustrated By Inconvenient NHS as Waiting Times Soar

In his regular blog, Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group Lee Dentith looks at the latest NHS news and why urgent action is needed to stop the system from reaching breaking point. 

lee-headshot

More and more people are now voicing their continued frustration with the National Health Service, with new damning research revealing that over ten million NHS patients per year are struggling to get an appointment with a GP. Crucially, it also reaffirms the fact that people in the United Kingdom are more dissatisfied with the service than ever before.

A mass survey of over one million patients has emphasised the problems that the NHS continues to face, with GP appointment waiting times, inconvenient opening hours and busy phone lines three of the most commonly-expressed complaints.

Incredibly, the number of patients who are forced to wait for one week or more to see a GP has risen by a third in just three years. This means that over ten million are unable to see a doctor in the same week when they fall ill.

The fact that the NHS is overstretched has long been known, but alarmingly this new report finds that some practices are closing for up to three and a half hours at lunchtime, or even closing up for full afternoons and weekends. With the number of patients unhappy with surgery hours rising to almost 75%, this is completely unacceptable, and cannot continue.


Here is a full breakdown of the shocking statistics uncovered by the survey (GP Patient Survey 2016):  

  • 18.7% of patients said their surgery was not open at convenient times – rising from 16% in 2012.
  • 18.1% of patients waited more than a week to see a GP – rising from 13.8% in just three years.
  • 11% of patients said they had failed to get an appointment at all – rising from 9.6% in 2012.
  • 10.8% said that GP receptionists were “unhelpful” – rising from 9.5% in 2012.
  • 25.8% said it was difficult to get through to a doctor’s surgery by telephone – a rise from 19.9% in 2012.

This makes for disturbing reading for patients and those involved in the healthcare industry. With growing reservations from GPs that David Cameron’s seven day onsite service ambitions would push an already struggling NHS closer to breaking point – especially if it were to be based on a continuation of its current model – these new figures will do little to convince us otherwise. Dissatisfaction with the NHS is rising, and rising at an incredible rate – we must implement major changes now to ensure that the nation is still provided with the healthcare system it deserves and that each person’s needs are catered for.

This is where Now GP is looking to change the current primary healthcare landscape. We’re looking to provide relief for our struggling NHS, with our mHealth solution able to provide GPs and surgeries with much-welcomed respite from  soaring demands, as well as offering patients an effective alternative to lengthy waiting times.

dr-now-app-screens

 

With an MRCGP-certified professional doctor available at the touch of a button, the Now GP app can eliminate those early morning phone calls to your surgery and the inconvenience of having to wait several days for an appointment. We’re also looking to combat the country’s growing problem of staff sickness, and can deliver medicines and prescriptions straight to a patient’s home or office.

Dr Maureen Baker, Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, told The Telegraph that the health service was working harder than ever to meet increasing demand but lacked the resources needed to allow them to do their jobs efficiently and thoroughly. We share their ambitions to turn things around for UK healthcare – that’s why we’re providing the Now GP app to patients to help alleviate the pressure on our hard-working doctors and to provide better access to healthcare for all. You can find out more on the Now GP website, www.nowgp.com

 


You can read more of Lee’s thoughts on Twitter and LinkedIn.


 

 

 


A&E Waiting Times Continue to Worsen

New figures from the College of Emergency Medicine make sorry reading for our nation’s health service, as hospitals continue to slip further and further away from their four hour A&E performance targets.

Waiting times continue to escalate in overcrowded A&E departments, with the latest numbers showing that 88% of patients were treated or admitted within four hours – significantly below the 95% target. As well as a struggle to get patients seen by A&E departments, the BBC has reported that there are also problems getting them to leave – in some hospitals, a fifth of all beds are occupied by patients who are ready to leave but cannot be discharged because of a lack of community services available for them.

waiting time figures for a&e departments

Photo credit: BBC

The NHS has taken steps to tackle the issue of overcrowding, with three quarters of UK hospitals increasing their stock of beds in an effort to relieve pressure and a growing number of previously routine operations now cancelled. Despite this, though, the problem continues to grow worse and worse and according to the President of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Cliff Mann, the “worst is yet to come.”


Figures show that A&E waiting times have continued to worsen over the past seven weeks


He said: “The majority of hospitals have endeavoured to increase the number of beds available to cope. Despite this, elective operations have had to be cancelled and postponed as bed capacity is insufficient to cope.”

The data collected from the college contains information on waiting times from the past seven weeks, monitoring the level of pressure on hospitals during winter. It shows a gradual worsening in performance since the beginning of October, when just over 92% of patients were seen within the target window of four hours.

Weekly data was previously made available by NHS England and the government themselves, but this stopped recently with data now published monthly with a six-week time lag. The latest information from the NHS, then, is from September and shows the four hour target being missed, along with other targets related to ambulance response times, cancer care and diagnostics tests.

ambulances outside an emergency care centre

 

This unsustainable pressure on our national health service comes as a result of the population’s struggle to receive the primary care that they need. With millions of us struggling to get a GP appointment within a week, patients turn to A&E for what are, quite often, non-urgent matters. Our dynamic telehealth service, Now GP, is aiming to alleviate the pressure on our NHS by supplying the public and businesses with a reliable and affordable alternative to primary healthcare.


Out of Hours Care Will Face Meltdown This Winter Due to Rising Indemnity Fees

As indemnity fees for GPs continue to soar, thousands of patients in the UK this winter must be prepared to face a struggle when it comes to securing an out of hours appointment with an NHS GP.

The Family Doctor Association (FDA) has warned that the rising costs mean that willing doctors will be unable to work for their patients during the height of the cold and flu season, with patients needing to find an alternative method of out of hours care this winter.

Figures in August suggested that GP indemnity costs had increased by 25% in just 12 months, with the fees particularly unaffordable for GPs working out of hours according to the FDA.


80% of GPs limit the number of out of hours shifts they work due to the spiralling fees.


Chair of the association, Dr Peter Swinyard, said last week that the government must be prepared to make “urgent changes” to GP indemnity provision, pointing out that general practitioners are the only senior doctors in the country who do not see their fees covered by the NHS for public service work.

doctor with a stethoscope and a wallet

 

Dr Swinyard said:

“GP partners and their practices have the double whammy of paying these extortionate rises both for themselves and for the salaried doctors they employ. Urgent change is also needed to prevent a meltdown of out of hours provision this winter when willing GPs are prevented by indemnity costs from working for their patients.”

A survey from Pulse found recently that 80% of GPs limit the number of out of hours shifts they work due to the spiralling fees, with GP partners forced to cover annually-rising fees for themselves and for the staff that they employ, too. It’s an issue which will see those in need of a primary care solution, especially during the difficult winter months, forced to turn elsewhere in order to receive the out of hours primary medical attention that they need.


We connect users with those who are MRCGP-registered to help the nation access professional primary care when they need it, with the winter month meltdown no longer an issue.


For GPs looking to provide UK patients with a dedicated out of hours service, Now GP offers them a flexible platform to work from their home or office at a time to suit them. We connect users with those who are MRCGP-registered to help the nation access professional primary care when they need it, with the winter month meltdown no longer an issue.

Our telehealth service can provide patients with a full diagnosis via smartphone-based video call, and our national and regional pharmacy distribution hubs can deliver medicines directly to a patient’s home or office.

NHS England has said that it is looking closely at the issue of rising GP indemnity costs, but a recent submission to the independent pay review body recommended that GPs may not need any funding uplift at all despite an acknowledgement that the rise in fees is unsustainable. With no solution to this growing issue on the horizon, it’s no surprise that more and more people – both patients and GPs – are turning towards telehealth solutions for their out of hours care.

 


How Telehealth Can Save Our Nation’s A&E Units

London’s Accident and Emergency units were put under unnecessary pressure last year, with more than 150,000 patients who turned up not GP-registered at the time.

With the majority not requiring emergency care, this put incredible strain on the capital’s A&E departments and staff, further highlighting how big an issue access to primary care has become in the United Kingdom. A&E departments continue to spiral into further trouble, slipping further from its 4 hour waiting time target.

A leading GP has stated that if the entire population of London were to register with their local clinic, the health service would struggle to cope. Figures obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request show that 153,564 patients who turned up to A&E in London last year were not registered with a doctor, but realistically, this number is undoubtedly higher due to some NHS Trusts not recording their attendance figures.

busy hospital waiting room

 

These remarkable findings from the BBC further justify the claims that we at Now GP have been making for some time: that a lack of access to primary care services has direct negative impact on the levels of pressure felt by our country’s A&E departments. It is only through providing patients with a suitable alternative to primary healthcare, such as our telehealth platform, that will begin to alleviate some of this pressure.

Our on-the-go society, and particularly those in London, require a more flexible and accessible solution to healthcare – young professionals and those with busy lifestyles simply don’t have the time to register at a local clinic and wait a week to be seen by a doctor. London’s fluid population sees many people come and go at a quick rate as they move in and around the city for work, with many either choosing not to register with a GP or finding themselves unable to do so due to a lack of availability.


“Lack of access to primary care services has a direct negative impact on the levels of pressure felt by our country’s A&E departments.”


When people fall ill, many will invariably head straight to A&E, and often their arrival at the hospital is the first point of contact they will have had with their local health service since arriving in the area. The average waiting time to see a GP is as high as two weeks in certain areas of the capital – people are unwilling to wait this long with a primary care concern, which is why we are seeing the nation’s A&E units begin to crack under  pressure.

A story broken by Sky News this morning said that senior medics have warned that A&E units are facing a “perfect storm” this winter, with a junior doctor’s strike coupled with a lack of staff meaning that the nation’s Accident and Emergency departments could be  in crisis during the height of the winter flu season. Hospitals are already reporting a rise in patients needing emergency care much earlier in the autumn than would be normal.

man with flu outside hospital

 

A London-based GP and author, Dr Youssef El-Gingihy, has long spoken publicly about some of the NHS’s major flaws. He claims that the proportion of the NHS budget going to general practice is continuing to drop alarmingly, at a time when demand for services continues to rise. Over a quarter of walk-in centres in the capital have closed since 2010, with patients forced to head to A&E units for lack of a better alternative.

Through Now GP, we are attempting to provide those in London and beyond with access to primary care with no waiting times and no hassle. We connect those in need to a MRCGP-certified doctor via live video call, and deliver medicines to their door in as little as two hours in central London. Telehealth solutions such as ours offer the NHS a much-needed lifeline, and patient by patient we are determined to ease pressure on our nation’s A&E departments and make waiting times and doctor unavailability a thing of the past.