The government is responsible for solving the GP crisis.
Now it turns out that Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol has not known how many Norwegians are actually without a GP.
The official figures from the Directorate of Health on Norwegians without a GP are simply far too low.
The reactions from parties in the Storting are strong.
– Out of control
– The GP crisis is now completely out of control. Today, every 24th citizen in Norway lacks a GP, states Nils Kristian Klev, head of the Association of General Practitioners.
In a survey sent out to the country’s approx. 5,000 GPs show new shocking figures that far more Norwegians than previously thought are now without a GP.
Translate tens of thousands without a GP
The investigation reveals that at least 336 “GP lists” are probably unfilled. This means that the patients on these doctor’s lists no longer have a GP.
The “official” figures from Helfo show that at the beginning of August there are now 266 “GP lists” which are not staffed by a GP, but often by substitutes.
– In total, there are 235,000 patients on these GP lists. There are 60,000 more than the 175,000 who have been operated on recently and who have officially been without a GP, explains Klev.
On average, a GP has approx. 1000 patients on their list.
In the past year, the number of GP lists without a responsible GP has increased dramatically.
Just over 75 per cent of GPs have responded to the survey.
– It is likely that among the 25 percent of GPs who have not responded, there are doctors who have quit and whom we have therefore not been able to get in touch with.
– This means that the situation could be even worse than what we have now learned, says Klev to TV 2.
TV 2 reveals even greater discrepancies
Through its own investigations, TV 2 has revealed that the Association of General Practitioners is very likely operating with figures that are too low.
In Bergen, the Directorate of Health states that only two lists are without a GP – that is to say that just over 1,400 hundred patients are without a GP.
The medical association, on the other hand, has registered seven lists without a GP.
TV 2’s investigation, however, shows that nine GP lists in Bergen today are without a GP.
This means that in Bergen the number of patients without a GP is probably around five times as high as the official figures from the health authorities show.
– It’s urgent
In the survey by the Association of General Practitioners, 118 doctors reported that they have terminated their GP contract and are within the notice period.
– If the municipality does not enter into an agreement with a new GP for these, there are 110,000 patients who are at risk of losing their GP, explains Klev.
If these are not replaced, it could mean in the worst case that over 350,000 patients will be without a GP at the end of the year.
In that case, this would mean that every fifteen Norwegians are without a GP.
– It is more urgent than ever to stabilize the GP system. We are now losing experienced doctors weekly who we needed to train all the new GPs we are going to have in the scheme.
He believes the government must now take action. You can no longer push the patients ahead of you towards next year’s budget.
– Now all the years of cross-political action paralysis and the large backlog this has created must be made up for. There is a need for far more GPs to cover the need and lack of predictability, and promises that are not fulfilled mean that more people quit or refuse to enter the scheme, says Klev.
– Has failed
In the government’s budget conference, the budget for 2023 will be discussed. And the GP crisis is probably a central theme.
– The government has so far not delivered on its election promises to save the GP scheme. In front of the media, the Minister of Health has not been very specific, but only replied that “powerful and structural measures” should be presented in the next state budget, says Klev.
The medical association believes that NOK 2.3 billion must be put on the table so that the expenses for around 1,000 new GPs can be financed. These are to be introduced to reduce the overall workload for GPs.
– The GPs must have fewer patients on their lists in order for there to be livable working conditions. It will also lead to fewer doctors wanting to quit and more newly qualified doctors wanting to work as GPs, explains Klev.
Criticism from the Storting
– If the figures from the medical association’s own investigation are correct, then we are in an even more critical situation than what we have received reports about so far. I expect the government to quickly take this seriously and ensure the quality of these figures, says Tone W. Trøen, head of the Health and Care Committee.
The right-wing health policy spokesperson believes it is unheard of that there is no better quality assurance of the figures and believes the Minister of Health must ensure this immediately in order to ensure political and professional discussions that are based on correct figures.
– It is clear that we need to have a good numerical basis, but we have known for a very long time that the situation is serious, and it was further worsened when the government did not allocate a single krone in the revised national budget. Many GPs have now lost heart and their patience has been stretched to breaking point, Trøen believes.
– This is very startling. This means that the political debate has been about something completely different from the realities, and this affects patients who do not get a GP and do not come to their GP, says FRP’s health policy spokesperson, Bård Hoksrud.
He demands that the Minister of Health now answer to the Storting.
– Now we must take action, there must be money in the state budget for 2023. It does not help to set up a committee to investigate what is already known. Money and the will are actually needed to get more GPs in place, Hoksrud rages.
Points to the Directorate of Health
In an email to Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol, TV 2 asks for answers to the following questions:
– What does the Minister of Health think about the extensive under-reporting that is emerging and which paints a more serious picture of the GP crisis?
The question is not answered. The Minister of Health, who does not have time for a TV interview with TV 2, replies by email that she cannot comment on an investigation she has not seen.
– I get my statistical basis from the Norwegian Directorate of Health. They must answer why the figures differ from the Medical Association’s figures, she replies in an email to TV 2.
Kjerkol further writes that “the GP scheme is one of my biggest priorities as a minister, and I want to point out a clear direction for the steps we will take”.
– The GP crisis is very real, and therefore the government has promised that we will come up with powerful measures in the 2023 budget, assures Kjerkol.
The municipalities are sloppy with numbers
– It is the municipalities that have a responsibility to report when a GP leaves, and we now see that some municipalities have not reported immediately after the GP leaves, says Director of Health Bjørn Guldvog in the Directorate of Health.
It is the Norwegian Directorate of Health that comes up with the official “GP figures” which regularly show how many Norwegians are without a GP and how many GP lists are not serviced by a regular doctor.
Guldvog agrees that it is important to know the correct numbers when conducting ongoing political and academic discussions.
– We already know that this problem is big, and we know that it is increasing, and it has naturally been of great importance to decision-makers.
These days, the government sits and discusses next year’s state budget. And the GP crisis is a priority task, according to the Minister of Health.
– What will you now do to ensure a better numerical basis?
– We will contact the Medical Association and KS and create a process going forward that will ensure that we get the correct numbers.
– Should be given more weight
In April, 150,000 Norwegians were without a GP, and Guldvog stated to TV 2 that there was a need for further immediate measures with immediate effect and reinforced efforts also in the longer term.
– Now at least 235,000 Norwegians are without a GP…
– I believe that the situation has become even more serious over the summer and that the new figures also point in the direction that this should be given even greater weight. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that it is necessary to introduce measures in the near future, Guldvog believes.