GPs prepare for NHS winter pressures

GPs in Shropshire are working hard to increase capacity to help cope with expected winter pressures, a senior doctor has said.

Last winter, Shropshire's acute hospital trust had some of the worst figures in England for Accident and Emergency waiting times.

But less widely reported is the pressure the season also has on GP practices, which in turn filters through to acute care.

Dr Julian Povey, who chairs the Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin GP Board, said groups of GP practices were collaborating to provide extra capacity.

A Winter Illness Centre has already opened at Severn Fields health village in Shrewsbury, which will provide extra appointments for seasonal conditions.

Across the country, winter - and especially the coldest months - brings extra pressures for the health system, particularly for A&Es.

Dr Julian Povey
Dr Julian Povey represents GPs across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin

"Funding, poverty, food poverty and an older population which is living longer with lots of chronic illnesses" all added to the pressure, Dr Povey said.

Eight groups of surgeries or primary care networks (PCNs) across the county have drawn up their own winter action plans.

In Shrewsbury that includes the Winter Illness Centre for the first time, which is expected to take pressure off GP practices and allow them to deal with other patients.

Dr Povey told BBC Radio Shropshire the number of GPs leaving the profession was also a factor in designing services across towns and districts.

He said the number of GPs had fallen from about 340 to 305 over the past seven years, although this had coincided with an increase in other clinicians like advanced nurse practitioners and physician associates taking on some work.

"General practice wants to be at the heart of communities. But those communities have changed and travel patterns have changed," he said.

He called on patients to use the NHS 111 service in the first instance, unless it was a life-threatening emergency.

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