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STILL INCREASING: ‘Unprecedented’ demand for GP services

STILL INCREASING: ‘Unprecedented’ demand for GP services

Graph of increased demand for primary care, Image: LDRS

GP services in Trafford are facing ‘unprecendented’ demand, and it’s still increasing.

During the pandemic, the pressure on the borough’s primary care services has been very high and more recently, things don’t look like they’re slowing down.

In a report to Trafford council, the Head of Primary Care for Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group, Jason Bamford-Swift said: “The demand put on general practice has been unprecedented. On top of this, we are now seeing the demand for access to general practice continue to increase.

“This rise in demand has partly been driven by several factors including but not exclusively; ill health and illness as a result of COVID-19, unmet health needs as a consequence of the pandemic, the backlog of elective care procedures, reduced access to community services, new demand created by opening a digital front door.

“The issues are multifactorial and are not fully understood. Work is ongoing at Greater Manchester level to better understand the drivers of the increase.”

In Trafford, currently around eight to 10pc of all registered patients are contacting practices every week. Before the pandemic, this stood at six per cent.

On average, that’s 14,000 requests for some sort of primary care network service every three months.

The increase in demand for primary care services across Trafford is mirrored across the rest of Greater Manchester.

A city-region-wide task force has been setup, with Trafford representation, to support primary care networks in managing the increasing demand.

The addition of a ‘digital frontdoor’ for many GP services across Trafford has partly contributed to the increased demand; in the form of Ask My GP and other equivalent apps.

It means patients can send in prescription requests, book appointments, submit forms describing their symptoms to ask for advice and request online consultations from the comfort of their home – but this has created a greater workload for practices.

The report said: “In recent months it has been reported that the demand on the Ask My GP system has been so high that practices are having to close the system in working hours to allow clinicians to deal with the requests for that day so that no more are received.

“Practices are finding that they hit daily capacity figures sometimes within a few hours of the system being open in a morning. Practices are then closing the online request facility on the website, this is driving the phone calls up and patients are being told to try again in the morning unless the request is urgent.

“This is highlighting a level of unmet demand in the system that practices just do not have the capacity to deal with.”

The Head of Primary Care also said that the pandemic has drawn particular attention to health inequalities in the borough.

To try and rectify this, a discussion group has been set up to find solutions – particularly for the north of the borough.

Health inequality in North Trafford is something that local councillors have been concerned about for a while and have repeatedly raised during meetings in recent months.

Now, it is the centre of attention for health bosses in the borough.

The report added: “Although the demand has been rapidly increasing primary care is still the right place to support the majority of patients be it through holistic care, preventative care, supporting complex care and, when needed, providing urgent care.

“As society moves forward and has to learn to live with COVID, primary care
needs to evolve the current way of working into a safe, effective and inclusive system for the future that builds on the current quick access patients are getting but with greater convenience and appointment times whilst also being able to cope with increasing levels of demand.”

The plan to further support primary care in Trafford involves educating patients more about how to access services appropriately, streamlining referral systems and opening up more evening and weekend appointments across the borough.


Words: Alice Richardson, Local Democracy Reporter

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