Physicians are raising concerns about patient safety as podiatrists and pharmacists are increasingly substituting General Practitioners (GPs at a lower cost).
According to reports from numerous family doctors, the notion of a GP shortage is disputed, with claims that less qualified and less expensive personnel are taking over in a healthcare crisis. Documents reviewed by The Telegraph indicate that individuals such as podiatrists, pharmacists, and physician associates are assuming roles that typically belong to GPs for diagnosing and treating conditions beyond their expertise.
In the most extreme cases, podiatrists, who specialize in foot care, are diagnosing illnesses in young children, such as respiratory viral infections and asthma-related issues. Even teenagers with period-related complaints are being examined by podiatrists. It remains unclear how these cases were managed afterward, leaving questions about patient awareness.
One GP pointed out that the lack of supervision during these appointments is a critical patient safety issue, different from the rigorous oversight in hospitals. This situation raises concerns about the quality of care provided by practitioners without medical degrees, particularly in critical medical situations.
The data indicates a significant reduction in the number of GP appointments being handled by family doctors, with just 43.9% of appointments involving GPs in September. This trend is driven by practices increasingly relying on healthcare staff other than GPs, with the NHS Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) funding practices to employ non-doctor healthcare staff. The funding for this scheme has increased substantially over the past four years to £891 million.
This shift in healthcare staffing is worrying for many GPs who feel that the NHS is prioritizing cost-cutting over quality patient care. Some GPs have even reported patients who had previously seen paramedics seeking further advice during a GP shift.
Several incidents have come to light where misdiagnoses and wrong prescriptions were made by non-GP healthcare staff, leading to concerns about patient safety. A call has been made by the British Medical Association’s General Practice Committee to halt the recruitment of physician associates (PAs) to ensure patient safety is not compromised.
In response, government officials argue that non-GP staff support GPs, reducing their workload and helping patients access specific and specialized care from multi-disciplinary teams. These officials maintain that these healthcare workers are appropriately supervised, undertake extensive training, and adhere to their professional remit, ensuring that patient care is not compromised.