Dr Jeremy Imms, Associate Director for Primary Care at NHS Somerset says:-
“We know just how hard our GP practices in Somerset have been working in recent years responding to the pressures of Covid-19 at a time when there has a huge increase in demand for their services.
“In the month of April 2020, there were 172,653 GP appointments in Somerset – this had increased to 297,670 in the month of September 2022 (including face to face, telephone appointments and home visits): A 74 per cent increase in GP appointments in two and a half years.
“Our staff in primary care have been working flat out to provide patients with the best care that they can.
“It’s been disappointing for a number of our GPs to see that there are inaccuracies in the data published today. This includes data showing a number of practices are seeing very few patients face to face, when in fact they are performing well above average. We understand this has been caused by a problem with computer systems. We would like to reassure patients and staff in affected practices that we are working hard to make sure this data is updated to reflect the true picture.
“We have a wide range of staff in primary care at our 63 GPs in Somerset, ranging from mental health nurses and paramedics to health connectors, physiotherapists, practice nurses, care navigator, as well as GPs, who all help our patients access the care that they need.”
The 2022 GP Patient survey looking at data from July 2021 – July 2022 found in Somerset.
- 95% of patients in Somerset say they have confidence and trust in healthcare staff at their GP (compared to 93% nationally)
- 93% said they had their needs met (compare to 91% nationally)
Dr Jeremy Imms continued: “Whilst we understand the importance of public and wider stakeholders having access to information such as GP appointments, there is a mismatch between the national data and the data available on a local level. This includes GPs that are shown to have both high and low levels of, for example, face to face appointments.
“We also know this data does not include online appointments, or appointments made available through the extended hours appointments we offer to patients at weekends and later in the day.
“And we know that fewer appointments do not equate to inadequate care or poor clinical outcomes.”
Examples of where national data differs from local data in Somerset
(there are other GPs in Somerset where the local data is different from the national data )
Dr Jeremy Imms added: “In Somerset, we face enormous challenges as a rural county and an area with an ageing population of GPs and we can struggle to recruit staff in primary care.
“Our GPs and st
aff have played a critical role in delivering the flu and covid vaccination programmes, with primary care networks (PCNs) delivering around 70% of vaccinations, while still delivering primary care to patients.
“We are not complacent. We are working with our GPs across the county to support recruitment in primary care and identify ways in which we can continue to provide our patients with the best possible care.
“This includes rolling out the Somerset GP Community Pharmacy Consultation Service this year, offering patients a same-day appointment with a community pharmacist of their choice for over 40 minor conditions. Through this service over 1000 GP appointments are being released every month for patients with more complex conditions to be seen by their GPs”.
“Primary Care staff are going to incredible lengths in challenging circumstances. We thank them for their continued hard work and dedication and are asking the public to continue to treat them with kindness and respect”.
Visit NHS Somerset for more information around primary care in Somerset.
Somerset LMC have also released a statement on this story, read here.