A new report submitted to the House of Commons indicates that GP surgeries in London are teetering on the brink of breaking point.
The Londonwide Local Medical Committees (LLMC) – a group that operates the statutory bodies that serve GPs in 27 of the 32 boroughs – specifically describes the situation as at “saturation point”.
According to the report, it is impossible for the existing network of GP surgeries to provide any further care to patients.
The LLMC indicates that representatives of 7,000 GPs at 1,300 practices spread across London already claim that they are unable to cope with existing demand.
This is already serious enough in itself, but with the population of London expected to increase significantly to 9.2 million by the end of the decade – an increase of over 500,000 – the problem is set to be exacerbated further.
A wide variety of cuts to critical programmes have ensured that surgeries now represent a “revolving door of consultations”.
This worrying picture forms the centrepiece of a report that has been submitted to the House of Commons.
The study was requested by the Health Select Committee, as the parliamentary body continues to investigate the growing pressure on family doctors and primary care.
Critics of government policy will be unsurprised by the picture painted by the organisation.
Furthermore, the problems that GP surgeries are facing in London will increasingly call into question the plans of Prime Minister David Cameron to create a seven-day culture in the NHS.
Far from having the potential to expand existing operations, the report instead suggested that the health service is already failing to deliver its current modus operandi.
Aside from the pressure on NHS provisions, the negative human impacts of stretching resources to this extent was also documented by the report.
It suggests that “in deprived areas, GPs are seeing patients in their mid-40s with multiple long-term conditions … which would normally only be present in those over 70,” but have only 10-minute appointments in which to help them.”
Further aggravating the difficulties is the fact that the capital is currently facing a wave of GP surgery closures.
Health service plans would see as many as 140 surgeries put at risk over the next three years.
Although the situation in London may be considered indicative of the UK as a whole, it is important to emphasise that the capital has its own specific difficulties.
Health infrastructure in London is often complex, and other factors such as outdated premises and the steady phasing out of NHS subsidies to GP practices has had a serious impact on services being delivered in the UK’s capital city.
Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, stated with regard to the health situation in the capital that “it’s reckless and shortsighted to stop providing support services in the community such as health visitors, mental health services and social services because they get overwhelmed and telltale signs of illness get missed.”
Drage also asserted that the current plans were leading to “GPs having more consultations, less time with patients, and patients waiting longer for appointments. Everybody gets a worse deal. Too many GPs and practice nurses in London are running on empty trying to manage these rises in demand.”
In response, a spokeswoman for NHS England suggested that efforts were being made to increase the number of active GPs in the UK.