Burnley campaign against 'outrageous' lack of face-to-face GP appointments

Nearly 2,000 Burnley people are speaking out against the "outrageous" lack of face-to-face GP appointments.

A Coalclough with Deerplay councillor said the issue "horrifies" him and calls for the Government to provide enough funding to make them the norm again.

Coun. Gordon Birtwisle claims just under 2,000 people have signed his petition in two to three months - including 190 last weekend - as they struggle to see their doctor and are frustrated with the 8am scramble for appointments.

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"It just horrifies me what's going on at the minute. It's outrageous, particularly for elderly people. I get a lot of people a day saying they are having problems.

A GP examines a male patient and checks his blood pressureA GP examines a male patient and checks his blood pressure
A GP examines a male patient and checks his blood pressure

"It's scary, and it's not acceptable."

But, he added: "I'm not blaming doctors. I understand they are overworked and under a lot of pressure."

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The Lim Dem politician said it is now normal for patients to send photos of their medical concerns or speak by phone with a nurse instead of physically seeing their GP. And he fears the NHS will face further pressure as more people turn to the A&E at Royal Blackburn Hospital for help.

Patients in a GP waiting room.Patients in a GP waiting room.
Patients in a GP waiting room.

One elderly lady experiencing unusual pain waited over an hour on the phone to discover she could speak with a nurse in at least a fortnight, according to Coun. Birtwistle.

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"That's an insult. They didn't even know what was wrong with her. She was distressed. She had pain in a place she had never had before. She was concerned because, at our age, things can go bad really quickly.

"She's an intelligent, nice lady, and to treat her like that is appalling. It's a disgrace. The Government should be ashamed of themselves."

The councillor claimed he struggled to speak to a doctor during a sepsis scare. He recalled instructions from his GP practice to send a photo of his inflamed leg and self-test for the life-threatening condition following a dog attack. He rang back and spoke to a doctor when his leg deteriorated.

While he did not have sepsis, "it could have been worse. If it was sepsis, it could have been the end of the road."

What does the Department of Health and Social Care say about this issue?

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Boris Johnson promised 6,000 additional GPs in England by 2024 in the Conservatives' 2019 election campaign.

But the NHS now has the equivalent of 716 fewer full-time and permanent qualified GPs than in March 2019.

There were almost two million more doctor appointments in March 2023 than four years earlier. But there were also nearly two million fewer face-to-face appointments.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said the NHS now has “record numbers” of trainee GPs, and gained the equivalent of 440 more full-time GPs in the past year.

How can I sign Coun. Birtwistle's petition?

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The councillor requires 5,000 signatures to present his petition to the Government’s Department of Health and Social Care. It can be signed on Saturdays from 10am to noon outside Marks and Spencer in St James's Street, Burnley.