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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 September 2016

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Nurse injection healthcare NHS Employers (Creative Commons), photo NHS Employers (Creative Commons)

Nurse injection healthcare NHS Employers (Creative Commons), photo NHS Employers (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Long waits and service cuts at merged GP surgeries

A few months ago I went to my local village GP surgery, a place that's been there for decades. Intending to make an appointment, I found instead that the door was locked.

The only explanation was a very small notice in the window. It informed service users we would only be seen in the morning. From two months earlier, afternoon surgery services had been cancelled. No explanation was given.

This facility had been custom built in the early 1980s. Prior to that the two long-standing GPs, with ancillary services such as nurses, had operated from what was an old school next door. It wasn't perfect, but it was working - until recently, when both doctors retired after years of service.

Unable to recruit suitable replacements, the surgery merged with a neighbouring village practice twice the size. This merger created a single service that has flourished in the new regime of 'Clinical Commissioning Groups'. In fact, it is growing, merging with other practices.

I'm not entirely sure, beyond profit, what the purpose of creating this vast monopoly is.

The major players are running a private business simultaneously. They are not secretive about this, despite a clear conflict of interest - on the issue of time management if nothing else.

At least one GP has a habit of taking a long time with patients. Ordinarily this would not be a criticism - far from it. However, patients are booked to fit in as many an hour as possible. The upshot is that people are kept waiting, sometimes for hours.

There are simple solutions to this, but they fall on deaf ears. The reason is that booking more appointments - effectively cramming in patients who cannot possibly be seen in time - yields more income.

The hours cut has also had a knock-on effect on secondary services. As a mental health patient I was due to see an outside specialist using a room at the local surgery. Since the practice is shut half the time that was not possible, because the specialist was only available in the afternoons.

Last but not least, patients from any of the individual practice catchment areas can book appointments at any of the partner surgeries. Again this might sound positive. But in truth it means smaller surgeries, like mine, have a higher chance of having appointments going to non-residents.

This is a problem for patients who don't have the luxury of mobility, or the opportunity to pick and choose where to be seen. Jeremy Hunt and the Tories call this 'choice' - but choice is an illusion. What people really want is the best treatment available, to be seen locally, and to get better as quickly and bloodlessly as possible.

A Somerset Socialist Party member

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In The Socialist 7 September 2016:


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