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Opinion: How can we criticise GPs when we fail to do our part – and is the newly proposed weed-spraying policy really the best idea?





Shocking figures published by one local GP practice showed how many appointments were missed in December – 434 to be precise.

Now I have previously criticised GPs for not stepping up to the mark when it comes to seeing patients, and on how difficult it can be to get an appointment – especially on the day.

But when you read the figures produced by the George Clare Surgery in Chatteris you might begin to understand why it can be difficult to get that appointment.

George Clare Surgery in Chatteris has highlighted the issue of missed appointments with a social media post.
George Clare Surgery in Chatteris has highlighted the issue of missed appointments with a social media post.

If we are asking our doctors to do more and to see us when we feel the need – the least we can do is turn up when we’ve made an appointment.

There can be no excuse for failing to arrive at the surgery at the proscribed time – but if there is a genuine reason why you can’t make it then at least have the decency to let your practice know.

As the George Clare Surgery said a missed appointment by you, is a missed opportunity to be seen for someone else.

Acacia Avenue near the basketball courts, Bury St Edmunds.Jo Owen, a resident of the Mildenhall Estate, has complained about the weeds, overgrown trees and broken pavements in the area. Picture by Mark Westley
Acacia Avenue near the basketball courts, Bury St Edmunds.Jo Owen, a resident of the Mildenhall Estate, has complained about the weeds, overgrown trees and broken pavements in the area. Picture by Mark Westley

Scheduled check-ups like smear tests accounted for 16 of those missed appointments, now I know (I’m female) what having a smear test is like.

It is not the most pleasant experience but it is at the same time a potentially life-saving one.

Around 700 women are dying of cervical cancer in the UK every year – that’s nearly two every day.

That is a terrible number, and it is probably fair to say at least some of those could have been saved if they had been diagnosed sooner and had the necessary treatment.

Having a smear test is the first step towards that journey. Missing a smear test, which is free, is not the smartest move a woman can make – so if you get a call for the test – make that appointment and make sure you attend – it could save your life.

Baby immunisations were also among the appointments missed.

Again watching your baby have an injection is not pleasant and can be upsetting, but how much more upsetting would it be to see your child struck down with a childhood illness that could result in a hospital stay, and in the very worst case take their life.

Measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio, and meningitis are all illnesses that may sound innocuous to a greater or lesser extent but they can have serious implications, so how fantastic is it that we can protect our babies from these with a simple free jab.

So again if you make that appointment – attend and get your child protected…

Review clinics for ongoing conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and blood pressure were also in the mix with nearly 100 of the missed appointments for these.

Again getting regularly checked out can prevent complications from any of the above, and it will also help prevent you from needing to make an emergency (on the day) appointment to see a GP – which again helps out others who are fighting to be seen.

So don’t be selfish, ensure you attend your appointment, whatever it is for – if you can’t make it give the surgery plenty of notice so someone else can benefit – it is not rocket science and in the end is good for both doctors who are not wasting their valuable time sitting around waiting for someone to turn up and for those patients who need an appointment but might not be able get one…

The prickly issue of weeds is once again on the agenda at Cambridgeshire County Council.

Its members are due to discuss the no-spray policy that was introduced last summer which led to widespread unrest from the public and some councillors who were unhappy with the resultant overgrowth left on paths, pavements, and alongside our roads.

A review carried out following a raft of complaints showed that the county council had failed to engage properly with stakeholders (that includes us) about the changed policy.

Now thanks to the review the council is considering another change to its policy which will see weeds sprayed twice a year – and there will be consultation to find out what everyone thinks of that idea.

As an allotment holder, who tries to grow everything organically, I am not a great supporter of weed killers, the impact they have on the bee and insect population is awful.

But I do believe there is a time and place when spraying is necessary. Having footpaths covered in weeds is not great as it can lead to a trip hazard for the less nimble among us.

Letting the weeds take control of our gulleys is again not good as that can lead to flooding issues. Allowing the roadside vegetation to grow like topsy can make it dangerous for drivers especially at junctions.

So whilst I applaud the sentiment behind the previous policy – which was to protect the bees – I don’t necessarily agree that it was applied well.

One size does not fit all, and maybe the county council should consider a more targeted approach. Having two sprays a year, which is now being suggested, sounds a little bit restrictive to me and may not be necessary in all instances.

Surely having the flexibility to spray where and when it is needed while leaving the weeds be where they are not causing a problem, would be the best approach I’m sure officers and those out in the ‘field’ are more than capable of deciding to spray or not to spray – but maybe that is too simplistic, and possibly just a bit too much like commonsense for our politicians...



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