A GP practice has been ordered by NHS England to prohibit the sending of emails to patients advising them to visit alternative NHS providers in a bid to alleviate the ‘great pressure’ faced by general practice.
The Devon-based practice had sent emails to patients detailing NHS-funded services that can be accessed without the need for referrals, such as physiotherapists, pharmacists and a depression service. Upon discovering this, and examining the implications it could have, the NHS has ordered the practice not to send any more emails of this nature.
NHS England said it was ‘very concerned about the impact to patients’.
Local leaders and health workers reacted angrily, stating it was ‘good practice’ and that NHS
England ‘grossly overreacted’.
The contents of the email consisted of explaining the problem of having an ageing population with chronic and complex illnesses, thus the demand for appointments ‘often outstrips capacity’. However, it also provided up to nine alternatives which is a resourceful solution given GP workloads.
The only major concern, is how it will impact patients with more vulnerable conditions such as depression and anxiety. Some experts fear it could prevent patients from stepping forward and seeking help.
The email went as far as outlining the national recruitment crisis for GPs and decreasing Government funding.
It stated: ‘
‘GP surgeries are under great pressure with the population ageing and an increasing incidence of complex and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia. Demand for GP appointments often outstrips capacity.
‘There is also a national GP recruitment crisis which is unlikely to be resolved quickly and the portion of NHS funding allocated tor GP practices has been declining for many years. It seems an opportune time therefore to inform our patients about the range of local NHS specialist services which they can access directly without the need for a GP appointment or referral.’