Most of us living in Plympton and Ivybridge receive primary health care by the Beacon medical group. There has been some local press comment about recent performance, reflected also in my postbag and on social media. I had a meeting with the Beacon top brass earlier this week to try to get to the bottom of what was going on.
The context for all this is that technology is changing the way we access all kinds of services. Hundreds of young researchers work at Westminster. Standing behind them in the cafeteria queue is interesting. Most of them pay by card, a growing number by their phones. None of them ever use cash. I have steadfastly resisted this for months, but just before the recess I succumbed and paid with my card. It was so much easier. Yesterday at Pizza hut my 13 year old grandson showed me how to download the app so I can pay using my phone!
Beacon are leading the way in introducing new methods of access to GPs, maximising new technology. But the recent problems have been caused by an unfortunate run of 3 GPs off work with ill health and 2 on maternity leave. 5 GPs down in a short space of time has lead to inevitable access difficulties.
The practice has now recruited two new GPs who are starting shortly as well as 2 additional minor illness nurses. There is a recruitment problem nationally.
The temporary blip will be over soon, and in the meantime we must all be patient – everybody there is doing their best.
Even at the height of these difficulties urgent care has been protected, so that 3000 appointments per day across the group are seen on the same day, with a consequent impact for less urgent cases. Last week 179 people failed to show up for appointments, despite reminders.
Soon we will all be starting our access journey (except in cases of emergency) by completing an online access form, to which we will get a doctor’s response within 24 hours. This may or may not lead to a face to face appointment. I know from my own advice surgeries, and from what GPs have told me over the years, that roughly 50% of all surgery appointment are not necessary. 50%!
Once the current short-term crisis is behind them, I have no doubt that the Beacon group will continue to provide excellent primary health care for all of us.