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Innovative thinking is needed for NHS crisis

MARK Ellingham's letter (Write Back, October 12), concerning his less-than-happy visit to his GP is not the same as my own.

My GP practice offers a walk-in service every day, with an average wait of one hour. The longest I ever wait for a scheduled appointment is three days.

I make this observation not as a counter to Mr Ellingham's experience, but to underscore the inconsistency in the way primary care is delivered. Rather than GPs scaremongering about the collapse of their service, where is the innovative thinking from primary care which could improve the service now without constantly defaulting to the panacea of more money?

The same applies to hospitals. We constantly hear of the long waiting lists for outpatient appointments.

My late mother, in her late-80s, suffered from heart failure, which was managed perfectly well by her GP, yet she was still called every six months for a consultant's review. Getting to and from the appointment was an ordeal and on the third visit I queried if these appointment were really necessary.

The immediate answer was "no" and, in less than five minutes, an outpatient appointment was freed up for someone else. There must be thousands on people managing their conditions well in the community, who would be happy to free up similar review appointments - if they were asked.

Also, is everything at the frontline of service delivery really efficient? Recently, a close relative, after a period in hospital, was finally discharged home with a care package. Happily, he no longer needs it and, in the aftermath, I cleared three large shopping bags of bandages, creams and drugs which had been dispensed by prescription, or left by the community nurses.

I returned these to a local pharmacist, who advised that, due to the contamination risk, none of the sealed supplies could be reused. He said that this type of waste happened all the time.

My overriding take from my family experience, over many years as a family carer, is that with more thought about how services are delivered, great strides in better quality care could be achieved, while feeing up a lot of existing resource provision. Central to this must be the patient experience. The constant wail for more money is not the only answer - some professional humility and the exhortation "physician, heal thyself" must also apply.


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