Why these Merseyside GPs are branching out into private practice

Two Merseyside GPs have set up their own surgery in a bid to offer face-to-face appointments to people in the area.

Married couple Heather Ryan and John Cosgrove, from Formby, have 24 years’ experience of working in NHS General Practice between them. But recent events and changes have led to both doctors becoming increasingly frustrated at the level of care they are able to offer patients.

For many years, work has shifted from hospitals to GPs, and new treatments have become available that increase the workload for GPs, without additional  funding. At the same time, there has been a political drive to improve access to GPs, and offer telephone, video and email consultations.

These consultations are much less efficient than the old-fashioned 10 minute face-to-face consultation, which they must replace, as there is not the capacity to offer both. This was mandated by NHS England, and coincided with but was not entirely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Heather and John launched Formby GP in January. Formby GP is, a private surgery that promises offers a more ethical service, as people can receive unhurried appointments andwith a continuity of care. They describe their service as “ethical” because they will only recommend treatments that their patients need. They take a targeted approach to testing which reduces the dangers of unnecessary treatments. In offering a private service to those who can afford to pay for it, they hope to relieve some of the pressure on local NHS GPs.

Heather, who grew up in Netherton, said: “We came up with the idea of opening a private GP surgery as both patients and doctors grow more annoyed with the status quo. We both love the essence of General Practice but are put off by the challenges of delivering good care in the underfunded NHS system.

“Because patients are paying for our time, we can offer 30 minute face-to-face appointments at a time that suits them. We can also offer referrals and treatments when these might be discouraged or difficult to access owithin the NHS.”

Heather and John, who both still work in the NHS part time, say that as patients choose to use Formby GP, this will free up more NHS appointments for others.

John added: “Despite political promises, GPs have been driven out faster than the government has replaced them. NHS general practice has now reached a tipping point; there are truly not enough GPs. While some practices are undoubtedly doing a fantastic job, it seems unlikely that NHS GP can ever again meet patient expectations.

“There has long been a market for private healthcare, just as there is for private schools, and even privately owned cars as an alternative to public transport. We haven’t moved into the private sector with the intention of undermining the NHS, on the contrary, we hope to take some pressure off local NHS practices by offering an alternative for those who choose to use it.

“If our society would prefer there not to be a need for private general practice, it needs to make the necessary political decisions to improve the NHS”.


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