Growing housing developments a concern for 'buckling' GP services
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
Fears thousands of new homes will continue to heap pressure on a "buckling" GP practice as it urges people to stop making "unnecessary appointments" as it cannot keep up with demand.
The Humbleyard Practice, which has surgeries in Cringleford, Hethersett and Mulbarton, is in the top five largest surgeries in the Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group district with more than 21,000 patients across its three sites.
Across the parishes, thousands of new homes are planned, including 1,700 in Cringleford alone in the next decade.
Phil Hardy, South Norfolk District councillor for Hethersett, has called on local government and the NHS to work together to help the practice adding it could be a "dangerous message" to ask patients not to contact their surgery.
The practice has told patients demand is at an "all time high" and impossible to keep up with the volume of queries, urging people to consider whether they needed to contact the surgery.
Dr Siobhan Roe, GP partner for the practice, said: "We recognise that in a perfect healthcare system, patients would be able to consult a healthcare professional at a time and in a way of their choosing, and the healthcare professional would be able to commit the time necessary to ensure the patient’s needs are met.
"Unfortunately, at present, this simply isn’t possible."
The practice receives hundreds of 'Get Help' forms filled in daily and reached maximum capacity daily - as clinicians saw up to 40 patients on top of other tasks.
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Dr Roe said: "Every unnecessary request for help we get results in less time to deal with the complex medical issues which do need priority attention.
"Rest assured, The Humbleyard team will continue to work tirelessly through the week, routinely working extra hours and going over and above to ensure we can provide excellent, safe care to our patients."
Following the Facebook post, many patients shared their support for the team's efforts which has included vaccinating more than 30,000 people.
Mr Hardy said the current village surgery could not cope and felt a new surgery could be created at the former Woodside Furst School in the village.
In 2013, 1,200 homes were approved in Hethersett but plans for a surgery in the application did not come to pass after the existing surgery opposed it.
Further concerns were raised in 2019, when ward members wrote to the NHS voicing serious concerns about delivering service to patients in the village and surrounding area.
The councillor alongside ward member Adrian Dearnley, has written in opposition to an outline proposal for up to 200 additional homes on Little Melton Road, Hethersett.
He said: "They are buckling under the pressure of the pandemic as well as local demand. They were not coping before the pandemic. The pandemic has exacerbated it.
"Hethersett cannot take on yet more development - another 200 homes - increasing the population significantly when the current practice which is working so hard cannot cope. We can see from the Facebook plea they are working in unprecedented circumstances and they cannot cope.
"I emphasise with their situation but I am concerned about the messaging that Hethersett residents should not contact them unless it is serious.
"Often residents do not know if a condition or symptoms they are suffering are serious or not and that is why they contact experts to diagnose them. We are often told not to go to A&E unless it is absolutely essential and I am uncomfortable with a similar message going out to residents now in relation to the doctor's surgery."
A spokesperson for the CCG assured primary care professionals were there for patients but said in the case of minor illnesses such as tummy bugs, sore throats or a cough advice could be sought from a pharmacy.
A CCG spokesman added: “COVID-19 has been hard for us all and this is no exception for our GP practice staff who continue to go above and beyond to provide the right treatment in ways that are safe and effective. GP practices have never been busier and they continue to be there for patients, when they need it."