A local GP surgery says it is close to operating at maximum capacity and may have to stop accepting new patients.
And Bishop’s Waltham surgery says new NHS policy may see more patients being ask to seek help at a pharmacy for a range of common conditions rather than see a GP.
It’s also announced a shake-up of its appointments system aimed at improving its service to patients, with appointments bookable up to a two weeks ahead.
The surgery says it wants to move to a larger premises but is waiting for a decision on this from NHS England and therefore no move will be taking place for the foreseeable future.
In a letter to patients, the surgery said: “We have already notified the ICP/CCG NHS management above us that we are close to reaching a population whereby we will be forced to apply to them to close our list.
“Unfortunately, however, if we were to be authorised to close our list it would only be for a limited period before we would be forced to re-open the list again.
“A solution is required urgently not only for Bishops Waltham, but for all the Practices within our PCN. We have asked for a stop-gap option with Portacabins or similar but again are awaiting a response from the management above us within the NHS.”
The partners at the surgery added: “The pressure on Primary Care Services as a whole over the last 12-24 months has been unprecedented, especially with the Coronavirus pandemic.
“This has been compounded in our area by a rising population within our Primary Care Network (PCN) Area (which comprises the surgeries of Twyford, Stokewood, Wickham and Bishop’s Waltham), with an estimated growth in population from 2020 to 2030 to increase from around 54,000 to around 110,000 people.
“Bishops Waltham Surgery is currently looking after a population in excess of 13,600 in a building designed originally for only 7000 patients, and we now find ourselves the busiest we have ever been.
“As a practice and as a PCN we have made recurrent attempts to get approval to look for better and larger premises and we are once again awaiting the outcome of a further Estates meeting at NHS England (NHSE) level. Without such approval we are unable to move forward on this.”
The surgery says it is taking measures to improve the service it offers patients. It said: “The appointment system has been looked at to try and improve the current delivery of service and some changes will be instigated in the next few weeks.
“Throughout the pandemic we have continued to provide a service where we have seen you face to face only when necessary having triaged all the appointments first to ensure safety and in particular to attempt to protect the more vulnerable patients in our population. We are now aiming to offer more choice.
“The new system will allow people to choose between face-to-face appointments and telephone consultations depending on their circumstances. It will also be possible to book routine appointments online.
“We will continue to provide a service for urgent/same day medical problems. These appointments will be for conditions that cannot wait for a routine appointment. We would encourage you to be mindful that these slots are for urgent medical problems only, and that we do not have an unlimited capacity.
“These are aimed at providing a service where you can book to see a doctor face to face at the surgery for on the day urgent and emergency problems. If you feel it can be managed over the telephone then you will be able to choose this as an option.”
In future routine appointments will be bookable both by telephone or online up to two weeks in advance.
“The routine appointments are for non-urgent problems, that is things that do not need to be seen as an emergency or urgently on the same day,” it says.
“NHS England have recently stipulated that GP surgeries have to provide all appointments within a two-week window, this is not something that we have any control over. Therefore, you will only be able to book slots with a GP up to two weeks in advance on a first come first served basis.”
Due to patient safety concerns, the surgery says that in future the eConsult Service will now only be available for administrative tasks. “We recently suspended the service due to the partners feeling that it was clinically unacceptable in terms of risk and safety – the risk that a patient may have an urgent medical problem, contacted us by eConsult and for that not to be looked at for a number of days due to the excessive demand from other avenues within the the GP’s working day.”
Following a directive from NHS England, the surgery says that in future, there may be more instances where you may have a medical problem that does not need the specialist help of a GP.
It says: “We have partnered with the local pharmacies to allow them to use their excellent professional knowledge to give medical advice and treatment for some minor illnesses that are deemed appropriate nationally and signed off by NHSE.
“You may be directed by our reception staff to utilise this service for the following problems: minor allergic reactions, acne and spots, sprains/strains, athletes’ foot, blisters, cold/flu, diarrhoea and vomiting, earache, ear wax and discharge, conjunctivitis/red eye, sore throats and some women’s health problems.”
The surgery also says it has recently introduced CCTV. It says: “This is necessary for the protection of our staff with growing concerns about abusive and threatening behaviour towards NHS staff.
“We have unfortunately not been immune to this kind of behaviour in Bishops Waltham Surgery and as such have taken this step to protect our employees as well as patients.
We will continue to assess the situation and any such antisocial behaviour whether face to face or over the telephone will not be tolerated in future.”
Over the past year, the surgery has seen the retirement of a number of longstanding doctors: Dr Tim Frank, Dr Nicki Evans and Dr Karen O’Reilly but has now welcomed new GPs to the practice: Dr Victoria Hammond, Dr Martha Ramirez-Torres and Dr Shazatol Subari, and in the coming months will welcome back Dr Rhiannon John and Dr Matthew Harling.