Thursday, 20 September 2018

Health centre manager quits saying GPs are overworked

THE manager of a doctors’ surgery has resigned over the “unsustainable” workload faced by GPs.

Mike Hall, who has been practice manager at Sonning Common health centre since 2015, says general practice is overstretched and underfunded.

He said: “The reasons I’m leaving are 50 per cent personal and 50 per cent the role itself. The workload of practice managers and primary care generally is unsustainable. There are unrealistic expectations that are fuelled by public health messages.

“There are also top-down changes in the NHS, things like primary care trusts being replaced by commissioning groups. We are always changing.

“The funding is taking away from what we can do. We have to jump through hoops to protect the funding we have and there are plans for further cuts.

“General practice handles 70 or 80 per cent of the workload in the NHS with less than 10 per cent of the funding.”

Earlier this month, the Henley Standard reported that GPs in the Henley area are under pressure due to government funding cuts and growing demand from patients. A doctor in Wargrave claimed that most doctors were so overworked that they didn’t have time to eat or go to the toilet while on duty.

Mr Hall, who was previously a practice manager in Hungerford, where he still lives, said: “I’ve done this for nine years now and I can’t see anything changing. If anything, it’s getting worse.”

He said he had made this decision to leave two months ago but he felt it was justified by Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent comment that the NHS was not suffering a “humanitarian crisis” as the Red Cross had claimed.

Mr Hall said: “I’ve always wanted to make a difference for patients — we all do in primary care — but there’s not the time to do that. We end up firefighting and just about getting by.”

He said the lack of funding played a part but the problems in the NHS went deeper.

Mr Hall said: “There is the issue of wastage, people not turning up to appointments. I’m at my wit’s end tackling that.

“Everyone agrees it’s a problem but no one seems to want to do anything serious about it. We hear we have an older population but I’ve heard this since I started nine years ago — why has no one found an answer to that?

“There’s also a big gap with the integration with social care and everyone working with different agendas doesn’t help.

“It’s never simply a matter of money, although that always helps. There are so many parts to all of this that need addressing but rather than going through convoluted routes I think we need to trust doctors more to do what they do best and treat patients.

“A survey showed that 90 per cent of practice managers say they are overworked or significantly overworked and 30 per cent of those say they will leave the NHS as a result. I’m one of those, although I may not leave the NHS completely.”

Mr Hall will officially leave next month but will remain at the practice part-time to help his successor, Andrea Tsoi.

He said: “It’s a fantastic practice and I’ve really enjoyed my time there. The people and staff who work there are a really good team.”

Dr Andrew Burnett, the senior partner at the health centre, said: “Mike has been great. He came at a time when we had changes in management and helped to steady the ship.

“He has been really good and cheerful and did things outside the practice, like a walking football scheme and things to do with exercise.

“It’s a difficult job with a lot of demands but he has done very well.

“There are big demands on general practice and it worries me if people are leaving because they aren’t able to manage it. Mike was able to manage it but other things made it difficult.

“We need to look at our practices and make sure we are asking our employees to do conceivable jobs.

“As a result, for our new practice manager we have changed the set-up. We don’t want people to be overworked and realise there are so many demands and different things happening in general practice.

“No job in general practice is easy. It’s a tough job and people have big expectations of you.

“We always have to be on our toes. When it works well, like it does here, that’s the reward.”

l Dr Burnett has announced that he will be retiring in March after more than 30 years in Sonning Common.

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