Fewer GPs left to deal with more patients in Southend

Southend has seen a 30 per cent fall in the number of GPs since the start of the COVID pandemic, while there has also been a rise in demand from people who want to see their doctor.

Vulnerable patients have resorted to queueing up outside their GP surgeries in the hope of getting an appointment.

Cheryl Nevin, councillor responsible for adult social care and health integration, said there is 30 per cent fewer GPs to tackle a 19 per cent increase on demand from pre-pandemic.

Southend Council heard on Thursday that it has caused a perfect storm of pressures.

Keith Evans, non-aligned councillor for Blenheim Park, said: “I have issues and concerns on behalf of residents who are struggling to get through to get a face-to-face GP appointment, with many residents now resorting to having to queue outside the surgery before it opens.

“They are not able to get through on the telephones and queueing outside basically to stand any chance of seeing the doctor for a rare face-to-face appointment, or a telephone appointment, or even an appointment for two weeks’ time, or given the advice to go to A&E, and we already know what the effect that that’s having.

“I respectfully ask if these issues could be brought to the attention of the relevant authorities and these could be addressed urgently as I believe it’s unreasonable – even more so now the cold weather is here, and it also affects the most vulnerable.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Evans said: “We are told to call at 8am and then you get held in queue and then you get cut off. By the time you get through the appointments have gone.

“I’m acutely aware of the pressures GPs are under but it is a concern that people can’t get appointments.”

Cllr Nevin said: “It’s important to remember that GPs have been working and seeing patients face-to-face throughout the pandemic.

“In September we were up to about 75 per cent face-to-face appointments. It has improved since but there are areas where face-to-face appointments actually causes a longer wait.

“There is 30 per cent fewer GPs to tackle a 19 per cent increase on demand from pre-pandemic so you can see the size of the problem but we are working closely within the partnership and to trying and tackle that.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter