Thousands of patients are being deregistered by their local doctors’ surgeries, due to a lack of GPs who cannot cope with rising demand.
This ‘recruitment crisis’ among GPs means that Britain is short of approximately 8000 family doctors, and surgeries have had no choice but to restrict their geographical care boundaries and deregister patients.
Many of the patients being deregistered are elderly, and have visited the same surgery all their lives. It has also been claimed that it is the most vulnerable or most ‘difficult’ patients that are being struck from registers.
For example, 95-year-old Lily Dove, who suffers with a number of health problems, has been deregistered from Watton Medical Practice in Norfolk. Ms Dove has lived in the area since 1919, and remembers the doctor visiting her family in a horse and cart.
The same surgery has also deregistered 52-year-old Dave Pendry, a former soldier who is wheelchair-bound due to losing both legs from severe diabetes. To visit his new GP surgery, Mr Pendry’s must now complete a 14-mile round trip.
Gillian Childerhouse, aged 80, who is being deregistered from her surgery of almost 50 years, said: “I’ve never been much trouble to them as I’m pretty fit but I’ve been dumped along with the rest of them. Older people are not very important in this country. They don’t want us. We’re just a damned nuisance.”
In another scandalous example, a surgery has deregistered a nursing home of 59 residents, many of which suffer with Alzheimer’s.
Although senior doctors warned that other practices have been forced to deregister up to 100 patients at a time, there are fears that the most vulnerable patients are being struck off, as they require the most time and care.
One relative of a resident from the nursing home said: “I think the real reason is that nursing home residents are often difficult to manage, lots of health problems, on a lot of medication. I’m sure that if they were “easier” patients, the surgery would keep them on.”
Dr Sukdev Singh, executive partner of the Bellevue Medical Centre in Edgbaston, Birmingham, which deregistered the nursing home, denied claims the surgery had targeted the home because residents required too much time and care.
Dr Singh stated that following the retirement of a doctor, Bellevue was forced to remove 75 patients who live the furthest away.
“It’s a national problem,” he said.
“We are struggling to recruit doctors and we do not have the necessary funding.”
This lack of GPs has been worsened as many family doctors are choosing to retire early, whilst the younger medics are choosing hospital-based work rather than GP surgeries.
This deregistering of patients is likely to continue until greater funding is secured for GPs.
Health minister Earl Howe stated: “We expect practices to work with their patients and NHS England to make sure that residents get the excellent care they need from local GPs, particularly those over 75 or with long-term conditions.”
The health minister has also called for NHS England to ‘urgently’ investigate the decision to strike off Ms Dove.
Cancer specialist Dr Clive Peedell, co-leader of National Health Action Party, said: “I’ve certainly heard that up and down the country patients are being removed from practice lists because they can’t deal with the workload.
“The pressures are enormous at the moment. There are real staffing issues and we are extremely worried about the lack of funding.”
It seems that although GP surgeries may have little choice but to deregister patients, greater thought should be put into ensuring that the most vulnerable are receiving adequate care.
It is evident that this situation must be investigated further to determine whether GPs are unfairly deregistering patients, based on the fact that their conditions may demand greater time and attention.
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Written by Poppy Reece