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Hospital Waiting Lists Burden GPs

Hospital Waiting Lists Burden GPs

General practitioners are bearing the brunt of increasing hospital surgical waiting lists according to a study released today.

The NZ Orthopaedic Association surveyed 140 GPs around New Zealand to measure the impact of orthopaedic waiting lists on general practice. Results showed that growing waiting lists coupled with the large number of patients being removed from waiting lists (e.g. 7200 in Christchurch last week) is impacting directly on GPs' workloads, with up to 40% saying this extra burden has reduced their ability to care for other patients.

Sixty-three per cent of the GPs surveyed have 11-30 patients on a waiting list, NZOA President, Professor Geoffrey Horne said today. Eighty-five percent of GPs are spending up to an extra six hours a month looking after the problems caused by having to provide extra care for these patients, he said.

In 90% of cases, GPs reported that their patients required considerably greater community support in the form of extra physiotherapy, meals-on-wheels, and occupational therapy. In 138 of 140 cases, GPs reported greater levels of stress in the families of patients on waiting lists.

"The results of this survey underline the hidden cost to the community of having increasing waiting lists and of taking patients off waiting lists to be cared for by their GPs," said Professor Horne. "In many cases the cost of surgery is less than having a patient on the waiting list or, worse still, having them taken off a list."

Professor Horne said it was hard to understand how the Government could justify not providing more funds for elective orthopaedic surgery. "Allowing waiting lists to increase is false economy because we know from research that it costs more to have orthopaedic patients on waiting lists for longer than a few months than it does to do their operations. Furthermore, the health outcomes for patients who have to wait for surgery is poor compared to those who have the surgery performed expeditiously."

He added that GPs played a vital role in the community and he was concerned that many were increasingly overburdened.

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