GPs are under “colossal pressure” with a five-fold surge in patients booking appointments, it has emerged.
A new digital triage system was launched in Grampian during the pandemic so that doctors could prioritise which patients needed face-to-face help.
The majority of patients are still offered appointments on the phone or through a video call.
But many patients find they still need to wait for several days for their appointments.
The issue has now been discussed at an NHS Grampian board meeting where it emerged that practices are facing a significant rise in the number of calls.
Why is it so hard to get an appointment with your GP?
Aberdeenshire councillor Dennis Robertson, who attended the meeting, said: “Certainly, anecdotally, we do hear that the GP service is struggling, but from a public perception I think what we’re also hearing is that they feel that the services are, not closed, but perhaps not as accessible as perhaps they could be.
“The public perception is such that I think they’re struggling to understand why GP practices are not more accessible than they are currently.”
NHS Grampian medical director Nick Fluck said the level of calls to GP practices has risen three to five-fold in recent months.
More children are in need of GP appointments
Dr Fluck said doctors were dealing with a ” wide range of pressures”, including a large spike in cases of respiratory illnesses in children and calls from the public with queries relating to ongoing treatment.
“And also we recognise that there’s a group of patients, whether it’s chronic disease monitoring or putting off problems, which people did through very good-natured reasons in the past, who are now coming forward,” he added.
“We know again from our mental health system that undoubtedly there has been a greater burden on mental health and of course long Covid, which we know is an area where there’s probably a substantial amount of workload.
“It is absolutely clear to me that our general practitioners are under colossal pressure within the system.”
How will NHS Grampian deal with the issue?
Mr Roberston, a non-executive board member and councillor for Stonehaven and Lower Deeside, highlighted that it would be good to get a grasp of the extent of the pressures GPs are facing.
It was agreed that a report would be compiled and discussed at a future meeting on the current challenges.
‘There are growing concerns about long Covid’
In a report to the board, Alan Cooper, Head of Business Operations, said NHS Grampian was expected to continue to deal with growing cases of Covid over the coming weeks impacting on their ability to deal with non-Covid treatments.
He said: “While we have navigated a recent surge in cases, this is by no means predicted to be the peak of the third wave and all predictions anticipate growing cases over the coming weeks, through into a peak in late August.
“The size and duration of this third wave depends on two key things: vaccination uptake and the factors that increase the risk of exposure to, and transmission of, Covid-19.
“There are growing concerns about the number of people who will be left with ‘long covid’, and the increasing possibility of new variations of concern.
“This is a pivotal and challenging moment – caution is crucial. We all need to continue to play our part to keep our communities safe.”