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We GPs are under immense strain because there aren’t enough of us | Letters



The paediatrician Robin Davies is correct to identify the challenges facing general practice, but fails to identify that the single biggest obstacle is insufficient size of workforce (Letters, 6 June). During the pandemic we saw a radical reshaping of how general practice services are provided. Today, there are more ways for patients to see their GP than ever before. Face-to-face consultations must always be an option, but there are advantages for some patients in accessing remote consultation.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has put forward proposals to improve access to GPs, harness better technology and develop multidisciplinary teams. There are also ideas on the horizon from the government promising improvements. We await these innovations with optimism, but at present the profession is in a daily battle to respond to patient need and a backlog of care with insufficient infrastructure – both digital and physical.

Davies’ suggestion of a direct hotline for primary and secondary care colleagues to communicate with practices is a good idea, but it would require additional personnel, otherwise we would just be prioritising one call over another.


General practice demonstrated nimble adaptability in changing how we work. We are embracing technology while remembering the importance of relationship-based care and treating the individual needs of patients. The profession is under immense strain. We all rose to the challenge of Covid-19, but working day after day at well above capacity is not sustainable.
Dr Rowena Christmas
Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners Cymru Wales

The reason that it is hard for the public to contact their surgery is due to high demand for GP services. This has complex causes and, as a GP, I know that the situation is universally upsetting among GPs themselves. Professional contact is a separate matter – professional liaison is an essential part of all of our roles, and timeliness can be lifesaving for patients.

Most surgeries have a dedicated telephone line through which NHS professionals can contact them about patient care. Robin Davies can sign up for an account with the NHS finder service, which allows clinicians to access phone lines for primary and secondary care.
Dr Fiona MacPherson Smith
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

As a GP, I share Robin Davies’ frustration, anxious as I am that patients are able to contact us when they need to. But the reason for long queues on the phone is the immense pressure that general practice is under. Like those in secondary care, I and my GP colleagues have never worked so intensely, regularly doing 12-hour days.


At my own practice, the number of patient contacts being dealt with by an individual doctor has never been so high, and can exceed 100 a day. It is not access that is the problem, but GP capacity, and if something isn’t done to remedy the situation quickly, the NHS will soon be beyond repair.
Dr Peter Aird
Wellington, Somerset

That Robin Davies was “number 29 in a queue” highlights the workforce crisis in primary care. There are only so many receptionists and clinicians that a GP practice can afford when they are typically funded with just £155 per patient per year to provide unlimited care.
Dr Stephen Savory
GP; chair, Lincolnshire local medical committee

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