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Appointments | Capacity at Norton Medical Centre

Reports of difficulty getting through to Reception/booking an appointment at GP Surgeries have increased nationwide, including at Norton Medical Centre. Unfortunately, we do not have unlimited resources and are currently working to maximum capacity. We have a standardised letter that explains this is a national problem and we are trying to provide the best service that we can. The full letter is written below and available for download. Thank you for your understanding.

Click here to DOWNLOAD our Appointment Capacity Letter. The contents of the letter is written below:

Re: Capacity at Norton Medical Centre

Dear Patient

We are sorry to hear of your difficulty in getting through to Reception/an appointment, this is not the service we strive to offer, but we, like many other Practices in the UK, are struggling to meet the current level of demand for our services. We will continue to do our best each day to deliver as many appointments as it is safe to do so. Ultimately, we do not have unlimited resources and are currently working to maximum capacity.

Although I acknowledge there is still an unmet need, local data in February (the most recent data available) showed Norton Medical Centre provided 1 appointment for every 2.37 registered patients, which is higher than the Clinical Commissioning Group average of 1 appointment per 2.77 patients. Our patient to GP ratio is in line with national averages and we have invested in additional staff, including Reception Staff, and have revised break times and hours of work to try to ensure we have sufficient staff to man the 12 incoming phone lines throughout the day.

The European Union of General Practitioners and British Medical Association (BMA) have recommended a safe level of patient contacts per day in order for a GP to deliver safe care, at not more than 25 contacts per day. At Your Service, published by the Policy Exchange and forwarded by Sajid Javid (Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), states that 28 patient contacts per day is safe. Our GPs regularly have more than double the recommended patient contacts per day, but unfortunately it is still not enough to meet demand. This is a National-level problem that can't be resolved at individual Practice-level.

The reality is that there are simply not enough Doctors or resource in General Practice to meet demand. There is a national shortage of GPs with 0.45 fully qualified GPs per 1000 patients in England, down from 0.52 in 2015. According to the Office of National Statistics, the population of the UK was estimated to be 65.1 million in mid-2015, compared to an estimated population of 67.1 million in mid-2020. Consequently, we have around 2 million more patients but 1608 less full-time equivalent GPs to care for them since 2015. This puts immense pressure on the staff who remain working in General Practice. Despite this, we have been at the forefront of the NHS's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, delivering thousands of vaccines whilst maintaining non-COVID care for patients throughout.

Unfortunately, the increase in abuse, accusations and general negative attitude towards staff who remain working extremely hard in General Practice is not a good advertisement for more to join the profession, further compounding the problem. In February 2020, in a bid to reverse the stasis in GP workforce numbers, the Government announced a drive to recruit an additional 6,000 GPs by 2024, an aim in which Sajid Javid admitted would not be achieved. Thus, GP practices across the country are still experiencing significant and growing strain, with rising demand, declining GP number and struggles to recruit and retain staff.

Additional challenges:
• Patients generally have a lower tolerance for requesting help, with a large number of appointments requested for minor ailments that are usually self-limiting, such as sore throats, coughs and colds
o These conditions would previously have been managed at home without GP input and would be better dealt with at a Community Pharmacy
• General Practices can now be contacted in more ways: over the telephone, via online services, eConsultations and in person, but the number of GPs, and thus GP appointments to offer, has not increased
• The scope for more complex disease management has increased, and a large portion of the maintenance care of these conditions, such as Diabetes, has moved from Secondary to Primary Care
• GPs can make referrals into consultant-led outpatient services, however the pressures in hospitals means there is no capacity in secondary care, and those referrals are rejected.
o The number of GP referrals to consultant-led outpatient services that have been unsuccessful because there are no slots available has jumped from 238,859 in February 2020 to a staggering 401,115 in November 2021 (an 87% increase).
o When GPs are unable to refer into hospital services, the care for these patients does not disappear. Instead, these patients need to be cared for by GPs while they wait for hospital treatment to go ahead, adding to the backlog in primary care.

The BMA have addressed the mounting pressure on general practice in England with the Support Your Surgery campaign. To see how you can help, visit: British Medical Alliance - Support Your Surgery

I wish I was able to tell you that I will take the necessary action to rectify this situation, but in reality, I can only guarantee that the staff and doctors at the Practice will continue to work as hard as they can to deliver the best service, they are able to provide within the limitation of the resources they have at their disposal. We appreciate that this must feel frustrating, and we share this frustration, as we really want to help you when you need us most. All our patients are equally important, but as previously stated the resources we have available to us does not always meet the demand; therefore, we have drafted this standard letter advising how we can best support our patients given the incredible level of demand we are receiving from our approximately 17,400 patients.

Yours sincerely

Leigh Malloy
Practice Manager