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Shift in way people access GPs is leaving vulnerable behind says new Healthwatch Cambridgeshire report

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People across Cambridgeshire are being asked to give their views on GP services after a national report highlighted how Covid has affected access to care with local doctors.

The way people access their GP services has shifted because of Covid-19. And while the move to online bookings, video and phone consultations has kept services running, tens of thousands of people across England have struggled to contact or see a local doctor over the last year.

A new report from health and care champion Healthwatch England highlights the experiences of 200,000 people, including those in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Sandie Smith CEO of Healthwatch. (45547123)
Sandie Smith CEO of Healthwatch. (45547123)

And it shows that while some people have continued to have positive experiences of accessing care from their GP surgery, the switch to digital has created problems for older patients, disabled people, those affected by homelessness and on low incomes, and people whose first language isn’t English.

One Fenland patient told Healthwatch: "It's very difficult to get an appointment at the surgery. There is about a six week wait for pre-bookable appointments. This is very difficult when you are working."

A national review of GP access arrangements is now being called for as the country rebuilds after Covid-19.

The Healthwatch England report found: Lack of consistent and accurate information on GP websites about changes to services meant people were unsure whether they were able to access care from their GP because of COVID-19 restrictions.

An increase in people having difficulties in booking GP appointments, including regular health check-ups and treatments, such as vitamin B12 jabs.

A lack of choice over types of appointments, especially for those who felt they needed face-to-face appointments, left some people worried their health issues were not accurately diagnosed.

Consistent reports of homeless people being inappropriately asked for identification and proof of address when trying to register with their GP practice, leading to health issues remaining undiagnosed.

Some elderly patients were advised to go online to book their flu vaccinations or order prescriptions without checking first whether it’s a realistic option for them.

Share your views on GP services too Healthwatch Cambridgeshire is the county’s independent health and social care champion and makes sure that people are at the heart of care.

It listens to what people like about local health and social care services, and what could be improved. These views are then shared with the decision-making organisations, so together a real difference can be made.

Share your views online at https://www.healthwatchcambridgeshire.co.uk/share-your-views

 Or call Healthwatch on 0330 3551285.

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