With pressures in general practice continuing to build, The Royal College of GPs recently warned that GPs “could reach breaking point” and that over a third feel they may no longer be working in the profession in five years’ time.
Against this backdrop, I wasn’t surprised to read the findings from the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) that revealed considerable regional variation in tinnitus service provision across the UK. Compared with most other countries the UK has well-developed nationwide tinnitus services, but despite this the NHS faces unprecedented pressures which cascade throughout, impacting services.
The frontline of healthcare in this country is stretched to say the least, with many GPs seeing an average of 41 patients a day, so it’s not surprising that some of the patients we treat have struggled to get the right help and support through other channels.
According to the BTA study, one fifth of patients reported that at initial consultation their GP did nothing, and two thirds of people referred for diagnostic services in secondary care were then discharged without any therapeutic intervention.
A further one in eight people were referred from primary to secondary care, discharged and then re-referred to secondary care, creating, as the report states, ‘expensive and unsatisfactory revolving door healthcare’.
These findings are upsetting. It’s particularly tough to read that only one in 40 people seeking help are able to access psychological services for tinnitus, despite an evidence base that suggests psychological treatments are one of the most effective management strategies.
Some of the psychological disorders associated with tinnitus are anxiety, depression and insomnia – the condition can leave people feeling isolated, so it’s inevitable that being passed from person to person within the healthcare system, and with little psychological support, can lead to problems building up.
At The Tinnitus Clinic, we work hard to relieve pressure on the NHS in any way we can. Our First Appointment Guide for General Practitioners is available to download on our website. The guide was co-authored by ourselves with our ENT and GP advisor and we hope it offers helpful guidance on things that a GP can do to reassure a patient at a first appointment, the essential tests to conduct and ‘red flags’ to watch out for, as well as offering management strategies.
We hope the guide is simple, comprehensive and, perhaps most importantly, GP-friendly.
With six million people in the UK suffering from tinnitus, it’s a condition that GPs will face regularly. We want to do our bit to help with this initial consultation, providing information for some of millions of sufferers trying to access the support they need.
I would say to anyone suffering currently, don’t give up. There are treatments that can help so seek support and get in touch.