It's not news that GPs are stretched, but the recent debate on whether doctors should visit care homes is happening in a vacuum without considering those directly affected. Denis Warrilow, who lives at Anchor's Norton House in Westminster, believes the voice of care home residents is missing from the discussion. A viewpoint that is best told by him...
"Let me set the scene for you, it's February and it's raining outside. Say I've not been feeling well for the last few days, nothing major but I should really get it checked out. According to recent reports suggesting GPs have voted to make cuts to care homes visits, I'm no longer sure what I'm entitled to. Previously, I was permitted to a visit from a GP at home, but now as I live at Anchor's Norton House, I am considered to need specialist medical attention from new teams of hospital doctors and nurses as well as GPs.
"Yes, I can get about ok on my frame indoors, albeit slightly wobbly, but that isn't going to cut it out and about in these weather conditions, especially if I end up having to venture to the hospital or at the very least, to my GP. It's at this point I would have to figure out how to complete what feels like a marathon to get to there. This, if I am feeling unwell, is not an ideal situation and can definitely hinder recovery rather than aid it.
"We've seen article after article contradicting each other about the discussion of possible cuts to care home visits by GPs, but I cannot be the only one to notice that there is a missing viewpoint, arguably the most important one and that is mine - the care home resident.
"Older people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Yet it's apparent from recent articles that it's care home residents who could be facing higher fees in order to fund visits from GPs, which strikes me as seriously lacking equality. This makes me question, why are these sanctions placed on people living in care homes? We should be treated just the same as those who live in their own home; many experience the same health conditions and the decision to treat us differently from anyone else is simply discrimination. Discrimination with no explanation.
"I have a huge respect for doctors and the older I get, the more I require the services on offer from the NHS - but that's exactly why these cuts are wholly unacceptable. I've got to know my GPs well over the years as well as the wonderful district nurses that visit me twice per week and the great staff who care for me here at Norton House - relationships and familiarity are important and the continuity from a friendly health professional is always reassuring. So why is this system now being altered and why are people such as myself facing the possibility of being bundled into a 'separate contractual agreement'?
"As one of the residents who has lived here the longest, I'm not one to shy away from giving the older generation a voice and making certain that it's heard. Our rights and needs are all too often placed on the back burner and this is just another example of older people's needs not being put first. Having visited Downing Street and presented the Grey Pride petition of 137,000 signatures, calling for greater political representation for older people, let me tell you - we are not a silent voice; we have frustrations and they need attending to. Perhaps if a Minister for Older People had been appointed, these unclear sanctions would have been questioned at the highest level.
"The GPs' vote begs the question: have they thought about us as people with individual needs? This generalisation that all older people in care homes need specialist medical attention is far from the truth. Just as older people living in their own homes seek the help of their GP to maintain their health, so do those living in care homes. Have our individual needs really been considered? Because I, for one, am not a process, but a person."