Patients flock to GPs as rising bills make them sick

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The research, which was conducted by primary care magazine Pulse, also showed that 16 per cent of GPs are putting in initiatives designed to help deal with the effects of increased energy costs. They include warm spaces for people to use. Medics said the strain on patients’ finances is causing them to reduce the use of heating and eat unhealthy but cheaper foods.

Gas prices increased by 128 percent over 2022, while the cost of electricity shot up by 56 percent.

The average food shop went up by 16 percent year-on-year in December.

It emerged in recent weeks that Barbara Bolton, 87, of Bury, who died of hypothermia in December, was unable to afford to put her heating on, according to her hospital notes.

Julie Mitchell, assistant coroner for Manchester North, told the inquest: “Her death was particularly accelerated by hypothermia and there is a possibility of self-neglect due to the lack 
of heating, so her death has been referred to the coroner.”

Pulse reported one respondent to the survey as saying: “People mention that they are just not turning the heating on now because they are terrified of the bills they will get if they do.

“If we’re talking about someone who is immunosuppressed or has a respiratory condition, that’s really not going to help them at all.

“When money is tight you buy what’s cheap and that predominantly means carbs, so for a lot of our diabetic patients, type 2 particularly, their HbA1c (blood glucose) levels are going up and up and up, which obviously is going to have an impact on their risks for things like heart attacks and strokes.”

Dr John Hughes, chair of the GP Survival group, told the magazine: “These figures confirm what we have been hearing from members, that the cost-of-living crisis is increasing stress on both GPs and patients.

“Practices are unable to mitigate the increased workload, as increased expenses, particularly energy costs, leave them less able to recruit or retain staff.

“This is likely to further worsen the rates of burnout and GPs quitting the profession.”

The NHS is still dealing with the backlog of patients caused by the pandemic, but Dr Kieran Sharrock, of the BMA’s England GP committee, said last week general medical practices have lost the equivalent of more than 1,900 full-time GPs since 2015.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “It’s vital that the Government ensures that patients, particularly our most vulnerable patients – the elderly, those with chronic illnesses, and those below the poverty line – whose health is most likely to be adversely affected, are protected against rising food prices and energy bills.”

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