Uninsured Patients Increasingly Forced To Pay For Surgery
HOSPITAL WAITING LIST PROBLEMS PUT EVEN MORE PRESSURE ON OUR OVER-STRETCHED SERVICES,
SAY GPS .
Uninsured Patients Increasingly Forced To Pay For Surgery.
A survey of 400 GPs carried out last week by Medix UK plc and sponsored by the Adam Smith Institute paints a depressing picture of how NHS waiting list problems are affecting GPs and their patients..
The survey gives the most realistic and up-to-date snapshot currently available of how hospital waiting list problems are impacting the day-to-day experiences of 400 family doctors. The results give a worrying insight into the practical consequences faced by GPs trying to get timely treatment for their patients..
The experience of GPs can be summarised as:.
Patients being treated at home when doctors would have preferred them admitted to hospital.
Patients being admitted to hospital as emergency cases because their condition worsened while waiting for in-patient or out-patient appointments .
Patients referred for tests or other treatments rather than to see a consultant because waiting times were too long.
Uninsured patients paying for their surgery because waiting lists were simply too long – believed to have increased over the past five years .
Surgeries clogged up with patients requesting the GP to expedite appointments
GP appointments taken up by giving treatment to patients that would not have been necessary had a hospital appointment already taken place.
GP appointments taken up by treating problems that resulted from patients being prematurely discharged from hospital.
Dr Rino Coladangelo, Chief Executive of Medix and himself a GP for nearly 20 years, said the findings confirmed the experience of colleagues. “These findings represent real GPs in real situations with their patients over the past four weeks. They are important because they give a picture of how NHS waiting list problems are affecting the already over-burdened GP.”.
“Some of the findings have been suspected by those in or close to the profession for some time, but this research is the first real statistical evidence. There is no doubt that GPs are spending far too much of their valuable time in efforts to get patients onto waiting lists, to expedite appointments and to cope with premature discharge. This aspect of the waiting list problem has had little attention and seems to be getting worse,” he said..
Over the past 4 weeks, 66% of GPs had patients who were waiting to be seen as an outpatient admitted to hospital as an emergency because their condition had worsened. Nationally, that would suggest that over 40,000 people were admitted as an emergency in December 2001— in turn, exacerbating current hospital difficulties. Almost every responding doctor (93%) had, in the past month, tried to expedite outpatient appointments because patients’ conditions had worsened.
The effect on the workload of already hard pressed GPs was emphasised by the finding that, in the past month, 93% of respondents had patient appointments taken up by patients with worsening problems while waiting to see a specialist. Over the same period, 86% of GPs had seen patients waiting for surgery where the appointment would not have been necessary had the surgery already taken place — nationally, this would mean that there were about 100,000 unnecessary appointments in December.
Given these findings, it may not be surprising that, in 2001, 86% of doctors had patients who were not insured paying for surgery because of long waiting times — for 35%, this applied to more than 5 patients per doctor. Overall, this suggests that about 100,000 people without health insurance will have paid personally for surgery in 2001. 78% of doctors thought that the number of patients paying for surgery because of long surgical waiting lists was greater than it was 5 years ago.
Another aspect of all this was the finding that 79% of GPs agreed with the proposition that their local hospitals discharged some patients too soon after their operations to make room for new patients, 32% agreeing strongly. A result was that, over the past 4 weeks, 72% of GPs had seen patients for problems resulting from premature discharge — yet another unnecessary burden on GPs.
GPs’ overall view of the waiting list problem was emphasised by:.
(a) 78% of respondents stating that half or more recent referrals for outpatient opinion had unacceptable waiting times, with 31% saying that this was true of all or nearly all recent referrals; and
(b) 69% stating that half or more recent referrals for in-patient treatment had unacceptable waiting times — with 25% saying that this was true of all or nearly all recent referrals.
For further information, contact Rob Wilson 0297 854 7333 / 07973 834035.
Notes For Editors:
The survey was carried out over a period of 48 hours from 7th to 9th January 2002. Of the GPs invited to respond to the survey, 10 deferred its completion and 3 refused — a refusal rate of under 1%. The geographical location, decade of qualification, etc. of respondents are a good representation of the profession as a whole.
Medix UK plc is a subsidiary of the iX Group. iX Group’s business is interactive survey research and data exchange via the internet.
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