Westminster failings lead to surgery staff facing flak, insists Oldham health campaigner

Date published: 14 July 2022

The closure of 100 surgeries per year, a haemorrhaging of staff due to Brexit and their own 'personal war' with GPs has meant that the Government has left surgeries on their knees.

That in turn has resulted in an angry and frustrated public unable to secure an appointment and verbally and sometimes physically abusing the remaining staff who work there – warned Oldham-based national health campaigner and Oldham Labour councillor, Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE.

And, by putting all their eggs in the online appointment basket too added Dr Chauhan, the Government is not meeting the individual needs of patients, particularly the vulnerable.

“We are all aware that the pandemic means that healthcare will never be quite the same again," Dr Chauhan said.

"But it is the decimation of primary care by the current administration that means you cannot book appointments with the same doctor straight away."

The creator of the first Covid vaccination clinic for the homeless in the world added: “The result is that NHS staff who were clapped and cheered on the doorsteps at the beginning of the pandemic are now being vilified.

"They have gone from heroes to zeroes through no fault of their own.”

Pre-Covid surgeries were already struggling to cater for patient need, but were full of innovative practice – such as introducing nurse practitioners, triaging patients by phone and doing consultations online.

A plethora of self-care initiatives such as smoking cessation clinics and mindfulness sessions also helped reduce the pressure.

But these were sticking plasters over a wound, argues Dr Chauhan.

The Oldham GP added: “It seems to me that the Government has seen the success of online appointments and decided that is the way forwards for everyone – even though 1.5 million households have no access to the internet, the majority of which are the most vulnerable patients.

“The crucial thing here is we need the right care for the right patients, but with government cutting and politicking, patient’s options are growing thin.”

For Dr Chauhan, a closely integrated health and social care model is the way forward, which is based on place, closer working between sectors and where patient’s needs are co-ordinated.

He added: “Patients have been complaining about not getting to see the same doctor all of the time, yet surely it is about them receiving the best care possible and if that comes from another medic, or team of health professionals, so be it.

"The days of seeing your family GP as and when you want has been taken away by this Government, and we are all doing our best in unprecedented circumstances.

"I had hoped the decimation caused by the pandemic would lead to a new outlook to health, where life expectancy was not about postcode and we as a society stood behind our NHS and demanded more resource and attention be deployed to primary care.

"In the long run that prevents expensive care in hospitals and stops us from becoming seriously ill.”

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