Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee will examine two reports on access to GP services at its meeting next Wednesday: one from the newly-formed Lincolnshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) and another from the Lincolnshire Local Medical Committee (LMC).
The ICB report said that from January to the middle of September, GPs in Lincolnshire have provided 3,251,945 appointments – up 785,664 on the same period in 2019 and a total hike of 25 per cent.
In a separate paper, the LMC said that in August alone there were 391,062 compared to 326,010 in 2019 – a rise of 20 per cent.
Both state that GPs remain the main initial contact between public and health services, with 90 per cent of contacts taking place there. More than 4,300,000 contacts are made across the 82 practices in the county.
Just over half of appointments (54.6 per cent) were able to be provided the same or next day, and 82.8 per cent were within two weeks, said the reports.
However, they noted a number of challenges, including frustration from patients around the phone systems and a falling number of GPs, with 1,850 fewer full-time equivalent GPs nationally in August 2022 compared to 2015.
“In addition to these decreases in permanent staffing, the pandemic caused and continues to cause significant levels of staff absence in general practice, which exacerbates difficulties for practices and patients,” said the LMC
“This mismatch of workforce and demand is not a new challenge, but is a worsening one for general practice, our patients and the wider health and social care system.
“As well as [this] we need to support and empower our patients in self-care and navigation of the services available to them.”
Meanwhile the ICB noted that increased demand challenged the GPs’ ability to balance improved access with the need to provide personalised care.
But they said work was ongoing to extend the range of services available, support the recruitment of staff, increase capacity and divert patients to the most relevant services to them.
“Thanks to the commitment, hard work and innovation of GP colleagues across Lincolnshire, GP provision in the county is good, with appointment availability being above the national average,” said the ICB.