High work pressure has led to tired and overworked GPs. At the same time, younger doctors do not want to work as a GP unless the workload is reduced. This is the main reason why a record number of patients today are without a GP.
Figures obtained by TV 2 show that the number of Norwegians without a GP has increased from 57 thousand in March 2019 to 145 thousand today.
Further down in the case: Check how many people are without a GP in your municipality.
In opposition, the Labor Party, the Center Party and the Socialist People’s Party were clear that the Solberg government has long failed the GP scheme. And it has been stated several times that a new government was best suited to solve one of the biggest crises in health Norway.
The General Practitioners’ Association believes the solution is less work pressure and more money into the scheme to finance more GPs. And is aware that the Støre government has not delivered when it comes to the GP crisis.
– The current Government has so far also been too passive and has not provided sufficient funding for the GP scheme so that the situation has instead worsened further, says Nils Kristian Klev, leader of the General Practitioners Association.
The GP scheme was introduced in 2001 and gave everyone who lives in a Norwegian municipality the right to have a GP.
Today, patients without a GP are forced to go to the emergency room, private health clinics or wait far longer than they would have if they had had a GP.
Had to pay dearly
Morten Meyer, former director of Oslo University Hospital, has been part of the disturbing statistics.
He moved from Oslo to Bergen and experienced that it was very difficult to get a new GP in the city between the seven mountains.
Then he became ill.
– I had a pretty serious throat infection and needed to see my doctor. But I could not since I did not have a GP in Bergen because the waiting time was so long, says Meyer.
Going to Oslo by plane to see the GP he had there was of course out of the question. In many cases, Meyer thinks that sitting in the emergency room is not satisfactory.
– The end of the show was that I had to go to private health services and pay dearly instead of getting the help through the GP scheme that I have a statutory right to as a citizen and as a taxpayer. But that right does not apply because the system does not work.
The weakest are affected
Recently, Meyer finally got a GP in Bergen. But he worries on behalf of disadvantaged groups in society who can not pay for their problems or who are struggling to achieve their statutory right to a GP.
– It is always the weak who in a way fall out the worst. I know the health service. I have the resources. I know how to get the help they need. I am thinking of those who are students, NAV clients, the elderly, drug addicts, people with mental problems who simply experience the threshold so high that they give up and then the scheme does not work.
The General Practitioners’ Association describes the situation as critical. So do a number of Norwegian municipalities that are struggling to get GPs.
Under the Solberg government, the situation has gradually worsened, but the negative trend continues.
– This is a foreshadowed crisis. Many GPs have quit or announced that they are quitting, and the situation will therefore worsen further. With each passing month, we see that more and more people are without a GP, says Nils Kristian Klev, leader of the General Practitioners Association.
As a result, more and more Norwegians are experiencing a breach of the statutory right to a GP.
Although it is a municipal responsibility to employ personnel or enter into the number of operating agreements that are necessary, the municipalities alone are not able to reverse the negative development.
– If the inhabitants are to be guaranteed an equal right to a GP, we need more GPs and state funding with far more powerful measures than we have seen so far, and it is urgent, says Klev.
In 2020, the Solberg government promised NOK 1.6 billion to strengthen the GP service in the hope of slowing down the negative development.
Most of this amount has not yet been transferred.
In addition, the General Practitioners’ Association believes that the state must spend three times as much if they are to achieve all the goals they have set in the action plan for the general practitioner service and thus ensure sufficient capacity in the GP scheme.
The so-called Collaboration Reform was introduced in 2012. The goal was to move treatment from the hospitals over to the municipalities and GPs so that it would be easier to get health care locally.
– The prerequisite was a significant increase in the number of GPs. But in retrospect, GPs have been loaded with new tasks that have meant that time spent per patient has risen sharply and given very long working weeks for GPs.
It is the primary health service and the GPs who pay the price when the resources do not follow, Klev believes.
– How does this affect patients concretely?
– It will be more difficult to get an appointment with the GP and longer waiting times. When residents are without a GP, they get an offer from substitutes or other doctors, but some municipalities have no choice but to refer to the emergency room when there is a shortage of GPs, says Klev.
A Norwegian study from this autumn shows that the longer your doctor has known you, the lower the risk of imminent death.
– There is also a much lower use of emergency rooms and hospitalizations when you have had the same doctor for several years. A well-developed primary health service with good access to GPs relieves the other parts of the health care system and is therefore also socio-economically profitable, Klev emphasizes.
– A big problem
– We have a big problem and the government is very concerned about the situation in the GP scheme, says State Secretary Ole Henrik Krat Bjørkholt (Labor) in the Ministry of Health.
For the Støre government, mental health and the GP scheme have been identified as the two most important areas. And in opposition, the Solberg government often received criticism when it came to the GP scheme.
– We control the Solberg government’s budget, but we were granted an extra NOK 100 million in the additional bill, Bjørkholt explains.
The General Practitioners’ Association believes that a lot is about money to finance the scheme.
– Why can you not transfer more than NOK 100 million extra? What prevents you from doing that?
– Most of the funds are tied up through the previous government’s budget.
Will not make panic decisions
– What do you think about the number of inhabitants without a GP increasing day by day week by week?
– We intend to meet the need with very specific kroner and plans, but we have to have good plans. We can not make panic decisions.
– Several in the Labor Party thought before the election that it was urgent to hire more GPs and ensure that all GPs get reasonable working hours and it was said that a new government was needed. When do you think that you should be able to guarantee that all Norwegians have a GP, as the law requires you to have?
– I can not set a date for when we will reverse the trend and make more young doctors apply for the GP profession, but I can promise that this is one of our two most important focus areas.
In recent years, the health tasks in the municipalities have increased sharply and this has led to many GPs being overworked.
– Do you think that it is the municipality’s sole responsibility to provide regular medical coverage, or is state funding important to ensure equal services?
– When it comes to the legal obligation to offer the inhabitants a GP, it is up to the municipality, but that does not mean that we should abdicate the responsibility we have.
– Do you agree that more funds are needed in relation to the GP scheme than is currently provided?
– Yes, I completely agree. And we will invest in the GP scheme, and there will be more funds as well.
– According to the general practitioners’ association, we are talking about billions. Do you disagree or agree that we are talking such large sums?
– I can not sit here and promise what amount it will be about. But we are fully aware that it will not be free to stabilize the GP scheme, says Bjørkholt.
Too long to wait!
– It is good to hear that the government will prioritize stabilizing the GP scheme, but they do not have much time. The crisis in the scheme has been known for a number of years, but has had to grow larger and larger due to a lack of investment. It is too long to wait until the 2023 budget as the negative development will only continue, states Nils Kristian Klev, leader of the General Practitioners Association.
See how many are without a GP in your municipality: