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Surgeries snowed under with coughs and colds

Surgeries snowed under with coughs and colds

Published at 6:03am 7th December 2016.

Doctors across the Harrogate District say they're now feeling the pressures of winter.

Demand for appointments has soared in the last few weeks, as many patients seek treatment for coughs and colds.

National figures show that more than five million people visit their GP with a blocked nose every year.

Health bosses are urging everyone to consider alternative options such as the NHS 111 service and local pharmacies.

Dr Tim Rider, from Leeds Road Practice in Harrogate, said: "The reality is that coughs, colds and runny noses are a very normal part of living through the winter period. The best prescription for those things is often time, rest and plenty of fluids, and these things tend to run their course.

"Those groups who are invited to have a flu jab should take that opportunity. Whilst the flu jab isn't perfect, it is a good way of trying to prevent influenza, which in those groups can have more serious implications, so if you receive an invitation from your GP, be reassured that we will order a flu jab in for you."

Patients missing appointments are also adding to the pressures on GP surgeries.

Andy King, Practice Manager at Leeds Road Practice, said: "From an average practice size, we're looking at about five hours of clinical time on a practice caseload of 7,500 per month. That's a lot of work and a lot of wastage and we can't afford it.

"The doctors are busy enough, people think they should put extra appointments in, but that's very difficult, because it's a finite amount of resource we've got and they've got a set amount of appointments. If people can't attend, or they don't need to attend anymore, freeing that for somebody that does need that appointment is vitally important."

The concerns are being raised as the British Medical Association (BMA) warns that the ability of the NHS to cope during the winter months has become worse over the last three years.

According to a survey, doctors believe that a lack of beds, delayed discharges and the general demand for primary care services are going to pose the greatest challenges.

The majority of doctors surveyed said that during previous winters they have experienced an unmanageable workload which has hampered their ability to provide high-quality patient care.

Dr Mark Porter, Chair of the BMA Council, said: "These figures are cause for serious concern, as while there is an ever-increasing demand for health services across the NHS, this is hugely exacerbated during the winter months. Demand is now so great that hospitals are experiencing a year-round crisis, with a lack of available beds preventing the system from coping with a seasonal spike in demand.

"Frontline staff are working flat out, but the system can't cope with the number of patients needing to move through acute care, as the entire system is congested. It is vital that there is sufficient capacity across the entire health and social care system, including in accident and emergency departments, general practice and social and community care. Doctors are particularly concerned that a lack of investment and resource in social care is increasingly impacting on the provision of healthcare, especially in winter.

"Short-term fixes, however well-meaning, will only get us so far. We have to look at the long-term funding, capacity and recruitment issues facing the system as a whole, if we are to get to grips with the pressures hospitals face year in, year out, but which are compounded during the winter months."