You and Your GP Health Forum

26 September 2022

More than 100 people attended an information-packed health forum in Harrow on 14 September. Organised jointly by Healthwatch Harrow and Community ConneX, You and Your GP brought together a diverse audience and a panel of GPs from Harrow’s 5 Primary Care Networks (PCN).

Up for discussion

After a complementary light lunch, Community ConneX’s Chair, Ash Verma, introduced the forum with a minute’s silence for the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Marie Pate, Community ConneX Manager, described how GPs work with other services locally in PCNs. These services include mental and social healthcare, pharmacies and voluntary organisations.

The Manager of Healthwatch Harrow, Yaa Asamany, explained that the forum would focus on four main concerns shared by residents: understanding what to expect from GPs, online booking issues, improving telephone access to GPs and support for people who cannot access GP services digitally.

Challenges for GPs

You and Your GP addressed a range of topics starting with Dr Meena Thakur describing changes to GP practices. Over the past 8 years the number of registered patients has doubled, but the number of GPs has not.

Dr Thakur pointed out that with fewer full-time GPs, consultation times per patient in the UK are the lowest in Europe. She also shared a more startling statistic: 77% of GPs feel unable to provide safe care because of high workloads and not enough time in which to carry out their duties.

Dr Varum Goel elaborated on the challenges facing GPs. These include health inequalities, an increase in patients with long-term and complex medical problems and longer hospital waiting times arising from the pandemic. Amid such demands, GPs also provide services aimed at preventing ill health. And from October, GPs will be required to offer enhanced access; this includes offering appointments on Saturdays.

Challenges for residents

While GPs are working under pressure, the impact falls directly on patients who need to access to GP services. During the open discussion at the forum, people voiced clear concerns over barriers to GP access. For example, booking appointments online is an unsatisfactory option for some, while others find that their notes are not updated and shared within their PCN. Attendees shared experiences of language issues affecting their use of GP services.

People also spoke of the need for greater patient representation. Marie pointed out that a cross-section of views should be heard rather than a single group of vocal residents. Attendees were urged to join their local Patient Participation Group (PPG). One of the roles of a PPG is to give feedback about GP services. You can join your PPG by asking the receptionist at your GP practice.

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