Doctor shortage crisis 'deepening' as surgeries fail to attract young GPs
The doctor shortage crisis is "deepening" according to a GP as partnerships are finding it increasingly more difficult to recruit young doctors.
Dr John Havard, GP at Saxmundham Health, said GP Partnerships were the 'lifeblood of the NHS' but are facing mounting pressure as their workload increases.
In January we revealed that Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG was ranked 11th in the UK for patient-GP ratios, with an estimated 2,168 patients per GP while north East Essex CCG ranked 16th, with 2,089 patients per GP - both above the national average of 1,734.
Dr Havard said that every person in the UK sees their GP more than twice as often as they used to a decade ago which, alongside an aging population and the transfer of more hospital work to GP practices, has lead to a surge in demand.
"General Practice is not as attractive as it once was and virtually every practice nationally is looking for new GPs," he said.
"Many want to do part-time sessional work because full time has become too stressful.
"Junior doctors don't want to be GPs and those that do don't want to be partners.
"The work the partners do to keep their practices running is immeasurable."
Dr Havard added that the 111 service had generated more work for GPs as they are 'very risk adverse' and frequently direct patients to GPs to ask for an appointment within four hours.
"We have to stop the over-medicalisation of trivial issues amongst the public and try to introduce some common sense and self reliance," he said.
"Furthermore, the mass of media programmes suggesting people 'pop to see their GP' to just to 'get a note from your GP' or 'you can't be too careful' add fuel to the fire that is burning down General Practice."
He added: "The fundamental issues have to be tackled or we are just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic."
Dr Havard said that investing in General Practice is investing for the entire NHS.
He said: "Nationally, the NHS needs to incentivise GP Partnerships to encourage young doctors to join the ranks.
"When you think that 85% of the population see their GP every year, the opportunity to enhance the health of the nation cannot be squandered."
Suffolk GP Federation echoed Dr Havard's comments, saying that younger doctors "generally do not want to become partners".
Dr Paul Driscoll, Medical Director for Suffolk GP Federation said: "The pressures on GP practices have been clear for some years.
"The GP workforce is shrinking.
"Younger doctors generally do not want to become partners who are responsible for running practices day-to-day.
"Whilst patient satisfaction with general practice is still high, it has been slowly falling.
"Practices have responded by bringing in new types of clinicians such as pharmacists.
"They are also merging to better share resources.
"In Suffolk, we are proud to have Suffolk Primary Care, which covers 12 practices and over 100,000 patients and makes these surgeries much more sustainable."
Response from CCGs
A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups said there is an ongoing issue in recruiting GPs nationally but said Suffolk is less affected than other parts of the UK.
He said: "Despite these challenges, the standard of healthcare provided by GP practices locally remains very high.
"Earlier this month, the national GP Patient survey reported that Suffolk patients have a higher than national average rate of satisfaction with their own GP practice.
"We know that staff are doing their very best for patients.
"Suffolk is undoubtedly a great place to live and work and our CCGs continue to support the development programmes of NHS England, Suffolk GP Federation and Health Education England to recruit and retain healthcare professionals across the area, including the recently launched Suffolk GP Hub.
"We are also actively looking to support transformation in general practice through the primary care strategy as well as supporting different models of care and collaboration between GP practices to help ensure sustainability."