A family doctor has laid bare the perils of general practice – and has vowed to turn around his own under-fire surgery in Mirfield.
Dr Pitt Pieske, 47, has been senior partner at Mirfield Health Centre since April and is only too aware of the problems.
Patients have complained they can’t get appointments and German-born Dr Pieske said: “I am aware that the situation at the health centre is far from good and I agree there are not enough appointments available.”
When fully staffed the practice has the equivalent of six and a half GPs to serve its 17,000 patients.
But this year the practice has seen three of the four partners announce their retirement – two have gone already and the third Dr Milos Lukic leaves later this year. Meanwhile two other doctors are on maternity leave.
There are currently four GPs including partners Dr Pieske and Dr Lukic – and four nurse practitioners – seeing patients.
Married father-of-two Dr Pieske said there was a recruitment crisis in the NHS and added: “No one wants to be a GP. Only 75 per cent of GP vacancies are filled.”
Locums were difficult to find, costly to employ and because they were transient by nature often left other problems for existing doctors to deal with.
Dr Pieske, who came to Britain in 1996, said the practice had recruited three new doctors back in January.
Two of them were due to qualify shortly and would join the practice in August as junior partners.
“We have been very lucky to find them,” he said.
Dr Pieske, who has been at Mirfield Health Centre since 2005, said he had no ambitions to become senior partner but had landed the position by default.
“While I didn’t want the job I am determined to see it through. I am quite optimistic that we can turn the health centre around but it can’t be done in weeks or even months.”
Dr Pieske came to Britain in the mid-1990s attracted by the terms and conditions on offer at the time.
He wanted to help patients and make a difference and is honest about how the role of a GP has changed.
“In my 13 years the administrative work has quadrupled and I now spend about two hours a day just on patient letters,” he said.
“There are many restraints on the NHS and there is no doubt the NHS is a political pawn and we have to bear the consequences of that.
“I know there are practices which are worse than ours and there are some on the way to bankruptcy, which we certainly are not.”
He added: “I hate the job of senior partner, because that’s not the reason I became a GP. The burden of paperwork is getting worse.”
From the middle of August Mirfield Health Centre will have an extra 230 appointments every week but Dr Pieske said in the meantime patients needed to help themselves.
In June and July there were more than 250 appointments missed when patients failed to turn up.
“With non-attendance at hospitals you get discharged,” said Dr Pieske. “When you miss an appointment at the dentist’s you get charged.
“Our NHS contract means we can’t charge people but we give warnings and repeat offenders can be struck off the list.
“Some people have the attitude that they can miss appointments because ‘it’s the NHS and everything for me is free.’”
Dr Pieske said he hoped patients would see significant improvements in the next few months.
It was also hoped to switch to electronic appointments and the electronic issuing of prescriptions from October.
He was in negotiations with the local Clinical Commissioning Group over a new computer system to handle the software.
Dr Pieske believes Mirfield Health Centre may be the biggest practice in Kirklees but it has probably the smallest catchment area.
Previously the practice covered Mirfield, Upper Hopton and Roberttown.
Now it no longer takes new patients from Roberttown and sticks to the WF14 postcode.
There are plans for hundreds of new homes in Mirfield and residents fear the town’s infrastructure – and health services – will struggle to cope with an influx of families.
Dr Pieske said he had been asked to support the campaign against development but doesn’t want to get embroiled in politics.
“I am a doctor and this is not my home town and I am reluctant to debate these issues,” he said. “Patients are my priority.”
Dr Pieske, who works 70 hours a week, vowed to put the practice back on track and added: “There is a perception that GPs earn too much and work too little.
“I can assure you that I’ve never stood on a golf course – and we have no golfers at Mirfield Health Centre!”
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