GPs forced to 'firefight' in surgeries as 'patient overload' takes its toll on service
GPs are increasingly suffering from "patient overload" and are firefighting rather than being able to provide a service, a new report has warned.
The report said some patients are using GP services "inappropriately" while others are not turning up for appointments.
The problems faced by family doctors are highlighted in a consensus document produced by the Primary Care Partnership, made up of health professionals and other services delivering healthcare in the community outside of hospitals.
The aim of the group, which pooled ideas at an event organised by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), is to give direction to the next government on how best to invest in services which will provide more care to people nearer their homes and relieve some of the burden on overcrowded hospitals.
The report said one of the knock-on effects of patient overload at GP surgeries is that more people are having to go to hospital emergency departments.
"Doctors have said they no longer have time to treat these patients," it said.
The lack of interpreter services is also becoming an issue for patients without English and their consultations are taking up longer than normal.
"There have been instances of young children trying to explain their parents' health problems and this is inadequate and often inappropriate."
Among the suggestions arising out of the meeting was allowing more patients to write their own sick certs for minor illnesses. A physiotherapist could also write a sick cert for somebody with back pain.
In the UK, self-certification is allowed for a longer period than in Ireland.
GPs should also make more use of text messages as reminders to patients who fail to attend, while patients should be taught how to manage some health problems at home.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Ronan Fawsitt, a member of the Primary Care Partnership Executive, said there needs to be a Minister for Primary Care appointed by the next government.
"A minister for primary care is crucial to ensure the effective long-term planning and delivery of a better primary care system for all stakeholders".
Partnership chairman, Chris Goodey, who heads the NAGP, said the report provides a wide range of ideas which should be taken seriously.
There must be a recruitment drive for GPs to attract recent graduates and experienced GPs, it added.