A Doncaster GP fears that a reduction in services provided by district nurses could be ‘dangerous’ for people across the borough with chronic conditions.
Dr Dean Eggitt said he was worried the decision by the NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group to stop district nurses carrying out annual checks on patients with conditions such as asthma or diabetes could be detrimental to patient care.
He said the town’s GPs are contractually obliged to carry out the checks themselves – many of which need to take place at patients’ homes – but due to an increasing number of patients and stretched resources in the NHS the duty has been undertaken by district nurses for years.
Dr Eggitt, who represents the town’s doctors nationally through his role as a medical secretary, said this task will now fall back to the borough’s GPs, although many will be unable to carry out the checks, which could result in the deterioration of a patient’s condition going ‘unnoticed’.
The GP at Oakwood Surgery in Cantley, said: “This is a very frustrating development.
“District nurses carrying out these annual checks made sense, as part of their gold standard of care.
“Now this is something GPs in Doncaster are being asked to do. However, because of GPs running out of time and not having the resources to hire new nurses, there are many patients who will have to go without the checks, which could be dangerous.
“This is the difference between proactive and reactive care. Without regular checks, a patient could go years without their condition being checked.
“We know how important these checks are, but with the amount of pressure already being placed on GPs many may not be able to carry them out.
“This is going to be detrimental to patient care.”
Doncaster has 240 GPs to cater for a population of more than 300,000 - one doctor for every 1,250 people. An EU report last year found the UK average was 2.7 GPs to every 1,000 people.
However, the CCG said no funding had been cut from the community nursing service.
A CCG spokesman said: “We have been working with local GPs and the community nursing service to ensure our most vulnerable patients in Doncaster are cared for in a personalised and co-ordinated way.
“Doncaster’s community nursing team provides care for very vulnerable and housebound patients, who have complex needs.
“If a patient is receiving care from the team, an annual check will be carried out and this information will be shared with GP practice so the practice can claim a fee.
“If a patient is not known to the team, the GP practice is contracted to undertake the annual check as the lead care co-ordinator for the patient.
“We have invested £1.5 million this financial year in general practice to meet the needs of vulnerable patients on GP practice lists. “We will continue to work with organisations that provide care in Doncaster to ensure their services are as effective as possible and improve the health and wellbeing of Doncaster patients.”