Changing the conversation about health

Dr Michael Dixon: “The loss of continuity of care is the biggest unseen in General Practice at the moment…”

The effect of patients seeing GPs they’re not familiar with could lead to diseases being left undiagnosed, Dr Michael Dixon has said.

Speaking on talk radio programme LBC earlier this month, the College of Medicine’s Chair spoke about the rise of digital appointments in primary healthcare, which have increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic in the UK in March 2020.

The country currently faces a GP shortage, as doctors faced with heavy workloads – further heightened by the pandemic – choose to change jobs, retire early, go part-time or work as a locum.

The rise of the digital appointment: more and more patients have been asked to speak to doctors on the phone since the pandemic began in the UK in 2020 (Image: Pixabay/megan_rexazin)
College of Medicine Chair Dr Michael Dixon

According to NHS Digital, the number of full-time GP partners in England dropped by 12 per cent Between 2018 and 2021. 

Dr Dixon said GPs being overstretched even before the pandemic meant often practices often have no choice but to pair a patient with a doctor they haven’t seen before, saying: “The more demand goes up and supply goes down, the more patients have to see any doctor.”

The Devon GP described the impact of patients seeing doctors they’re not familiar with as having potentially ‘dangerous’ consequences.

He said: “The loss of continuity of care is the biggest unseen thing in general practice at the moment.

“Once you lose that, then I’m afraid things do get dangerous because the episodic doctor doesn’t know a patient as well as their own GP does and may not detect subtle changes which might be a disease happening.”