Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pressures That Drive London GPs to Say: We Can't Cope

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pressures That Drive London GPs to Say: We Can't Cope

Article excerpt

Byline: ZOE MORRIS

A shocking dossier of the pressures facing London GPs is published today by the British Medical Association, in the run-up to a potentially embarrassing pre-election ballot for mass resignations. It paints a depressing picture, with morale at an all-time low and stories of yearlong waits for hospital appointments, attacks on family doctors by patients and lack of

investment. Health Reporter Zoe Morris writes "

WE ARE all shattered, exhausted and just can't cope." These are the words of Victoria GP Dr Frank Fogelman. They sum up the despair felt by many family doctors across London who are all being asked by the British Medical Association whether they are willing to sign mass resignations.

Patients' rising expectations, increasing pressures on time and failures in the hospital sector are conspiring to drive many GPs into considering a career change or early retirement.

At a time when the Government is relying on GPs to drive through change and achieve ambitious targets, the doctors are warning that they are already at breaking point.

"I recently had a patient who came in to see me about depression," said Dr Anita Goraya in Friern Barnet. "Unfortunately, I am unable to refer anyone suffering from depression for counselling, because there is a 17-month waiting list to see a therapist. There are very few services locally and the waiting list for the few that exist is preposterous."

GPs say they are increasingly bearing the brunt of patients frustrated by such long waits for treatment - which are out of their control. Dr George Moses, from Hammersmith, said violence in the surgery is a growing problem.

"My partner was assaulted by a patient who actually received a jail sentence for the offence - that's how bad it was," he said.

"The violence is caused by unrealistic patient expectation."

Working in the deprived East End of London, Dr Sam Everington seldom has lunch breaks and regularly works 60-hour weeks. He believes the family doctor's surgery has fallen victim in an effort to ease pressure on overstretched hospital services.

"The problem is the pressure to do more and more outpatient work, only referring patients to hospital for work we absolutely cannot do, such as surgery, to take the pressure off hospitals," he said.

Dr Everington has had patients who have had to wait months for surgery with conditions including lung cancer and brain tumours. He says he spends a great deal of time "chasing surgeons" when he should be dealing with patients.

For Dr Fogelman's patients in Victoria, it is not unusual for operations to remove tumours to be cancelled several times.

"Quite apart from what the patient goes through, it eats up GP time, chasing appointments and dealing with inefficiency," he said. …

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