NHS AT‘BREAKING POINT’ GP shortage is putting patients’ care at risk
THE NHS is at “breaking point”, medics have warned, as fresh figures shed light on the scale of the GP shortage in the North East.
Data published by the NHS reveals the region had 1,454 full-time equivalent GPs at the end of June this year, compared to 1,564 in March 2016 – a loss of more than 100 GPs in a little over a year.
The downturn comes as the number of patients who registered with a GP in the North East rose by more than 18,000 during the same period.
Now, the British Medical Association (BMA), the organisation representing the country’s GPs, has warned a chronic lack of doctors is putting patient care at risk. Dr Chaand Nagpaulm, BMA council chairman, said: “We know that many doctors are struggling with unsustainable workloads in an NHS that is understaffed and chronically underfunded.
“This has a huge impact on their morale and wellbeing, often leading to stress and burnout.
“With an NHS at breaking point, if the Government doesn’t get to grips with this workforce crisis, the NHS will struggle to attract and retain highly trained staff, and patient care will suffer as a result.”
The data shows that South Tees saw the biggest percentage decline in fulltime equivalent GPs during the 15-month period. Chaand Nagpaulm, of the British Medical Association
The area, which covers Middlesbrough, had 161 staff in March 2016 but only 140 at the end of June this year – a 14% drop.
The number of GPs fell from 213 to 186 in Northumberland – equivalent to 13% – and from 158 to 141 in Sunderland – or 11% – during the same period.
Newcastle and Gateshead lost 8% of GPs from 302 to 274, Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield saw a drop from 167 to 156 – or 7% – but staff levels stayed at 129 in North Durham.
Despite declines across the majority of the region, North Tyneside saw a rise in the number of full-time equivalent GPs from 30 to 137, while South Tyneside was up from 85 to 93.
The total number of patients registered with a GP in the North East stood at 2,732,690 in March 2016 but increased to 2,751,031 15 months later.
Helen Reynard, primary care transformation manager for NHS England Cumbria and the North East, said: “The General Practice Forward View, which was introduced last year to help address these challenges, delivers schemes to help support GP recruitment and retention. Examples of initiatives in our region include the international GP recruitment programme, recruiting other clinicians, including pharmacists, therapists and physiotherapists, to work in GP practices to help reduce GP workload and supporting GPs by providing mental health support, when required, and opportunities to access bespoke training to encourage personal development and retention.”