Health chiefs 'firefighting' staff shortages at GP practices in Kirklees
Health chiefs are “fire-fighting” staff shortages across GP practices in Kirklees to make it easier for people to contact their doctor.
Their reaction comes as people are turning up at A&E departments for treatment claiming that they cannot access their local practice or that they have spoken to staff who told them to go to hospital.
Health bosses say that perception is not reflective of the true picture, and that the 67 GP practices across the borough will be supported to reduce pressure as winter approaches.
During the peak of the Covid pandemic, some health workers were redeployed to assist practices that were “really, really struggling” to cope with high numbers of calls due to reception staff sickness.
The process has recently been speeded up via two-hour testing that means key personnel are not out of the loop for a day or more.
Speaking at a meeting of Kirklees Council’s health and adult social care scrutiny panel, Jon Parnaby, of NHS Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It may appear [to be] fire-fighting but it’s a system response.
“They got results within two hours and were able to come back into work on the same day as opposed to having 48 hours out as they wait for those results to come through. So we are trying to be as responsive as possible.”
Referring to people who choose to go to A&E rather than their doctor, Mr Parnaby said: “I wouldn’t like to say that our residents are lying to us but I think sometimes it’s a perceived idea that they are unable to access primary care.
“The last thing I would want is that people hold back and don’t bother to access primary care. I want to make it as smooth as possible for them in order to do that.”
In response, Coun Liz Smaje (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) said: “Perception is one thing, yes, but I think there are also cases where if it gets really bad and we have a lot of staff down with flu or whatever in the winter period, then there’s going to be even more pressure on those primary care services.
“Rather than fire-fight it would be good to actually have a plan in place to help to support them.”
The district-wide plan to cope during the winter period sees health organisations partnering to offer a joint response that includes a 100 per cent uptake in staff having the flu jab.
In the past only around three-quarters of workers have been inoculated.
There is also a push to reduce the number of patients in hospital that do not need to stay there, as well as cutting back the number of patients that have been in hospital for 21 days or more.
Among the “broad risks” being considered are a Covid surge, a further lockdown, the likelihood of floods and snow, logistics around the transportation of goods, power outages (including loss of IT systems), the impact of long Covid and the mental health and well-being of staff and residents.
A report to the panel said: “The exact magnitude and impact of potential increases in Covid infections and other respiratory viruses is uncertain.
“However, what is clear is the need to have robust plans in place to manage these additional pressures, minimise the impact on patients and support health and adult social care staff.”