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NHS: Delay in seeing a GP brings call for change by worried councillors

Thursday 25th November 2021

WORRIED councillors have called for radical changes to the way the general practice system is run in Kent as patients continue to face long waits for appointments, writes Ciaran Duggan

Kent County Council’s (KCC) health scrutiny committee says more must be done to relieve the growing pressure on surgeries across the county.

There are 1,180 Kent GPs, working in 192 GP surgeries, supported by just over 1,000 nurses, paramedics and pharmacists.

Kent NHS leaders say the pandemic has “intensified” workforce challenges as they find it harder to recruit new GPs, while staff are helping patients on hospital waiting lists and aiding the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

Councillors have warned that patients are facing lengthy delays in speaking to their GP and having to travel long distances to surgeries.

Calls were made to find long-term solutions during a meeting, which involved a panel of NHS staff and more than 10 councillors, at County Hall, Maidstone on November 11.

The panel was told there has been difficulty in people booking GP slots across Kent, which residents are “increasingly” experiencing.

NHS data reveals that the number of full-time GPs in Kent has reduced from 1,295 in 2015 to 1,180 in 2021.

In addition, the KCC committee heard how one resident made 80 phone calls to their GP before getting through.

Meanwhile, an Aylesford man was directed to a GP eight miles away, which is more than three bus rides away, a councillor told the panel.

Malling Cllr Andrew Kennedy said: “The quality of care when you see a GP is fantastic, but it is getting to see a GP that is the problem.”

The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which oversees the running of GPs, laid out a series of proposed short and long-term actions.

About 883,900 GP bookings were made in Kent in September 2021, including 552,500 face-to-face, which is the highest level since January 2020.

CCG spokesman Bill Millar said: “We have to balance the needs of patients with the services that are available online, on the telephone and face-to-face.”