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East Harling GP warns that people in south Norfolk becoming disillusioned by health system

A retired Norfolk GP has warned that many people in the region feel the health system has been “stolen from them” amid a move towards virtual doctor’s appointments.

Andrew Hayward, who was a GP in East Harling for 27 years, told a meeting of health bosses last week that “a large number of people simply do not understand, and frankly feel a little bitter” about the fast pace of change in healthcare, which was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “There is also a significant minority of people who welcome being able to access online healthcare – of course, that tends to be the younger, more capable and more IT-literate groups – and they think it’s brilliant.

Doctor's appointments are increasingly moving online following the pandemic.
Doctor's appointments are increasingly moving online following the pandemic.

“But the people that are most vulnerable, not all the elderly, but generally older people, along with those younger people who don’t have good access, who are poor, drug addicts, and there’s a group of people who simply don’t trust any form of online activity, because of paranoid feelings about government monitoring and things like that ... [for those people], it’s become a worse service, I’m sorry to say, and I hate saying that.”

The former GP’s comments were made at a committee meeting of Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at which members looked at a new report on access to GPs.

The paper outlines how, between April and November 2021, a total of 4.9 million face-to-face, telephone and online appointments were delivered by GPs in Norfolk and Waveney.

It points out that the proportion of face-to-face appointments in the region in that period – 84.6per cent – was higher than the national figure of 70.7 per cent.

But it also notes that between April 2021 and January 2022, the CCG received 259 concerns or complaints from patients, of which 85 related to access and appointments.

In turn, it warned of an “increase in challenging behaviour from patients against staff” across the health system.

Kathy Branson, who serves as the registered nurse on the CCG’s governing body, said she felt frustrated by the report’s apparent failure to recognise some of the reasons why that behaviour had increased.

She said: “Whether that’s based in fact or not, I think there needs to be something in this paper which simply recognises that changes in the way people work, and the enforced changes by the pandemic, have given rise to high emotion, and we’re seeking to address that.”

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