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Closure fears for surgeries with 8, 000 patients to one GP
Family doctors have to look after up to 8, 000 patients each as growing pressure and plummeting morale drive GPs out of the profession.
Last night health leaders warned traditional general practice will “disappear” as patients in some areas are unable to access a doctor.
Clare Gerada, former chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “Unless this is addressed the tradition of family medicine, which is the relationship between a doctor and his patients from cradle to grave, will disappear in some areas.”
A joint investigation carried out by the Sunday Express and doctors’ magazine Pulse highlights the scale of the problem, with one permanent GP to 8, 000 residents in one area. This is at least five times the acceptable upper level.
The research also shows 75 practices had more than 5, 000 patients per permanent GP and 149 had 4, 000-plus. GP leaders claim rising numbers of family doctors are leaving the profession due to high workloads and lack of support.
This means many family doctors are unable to see patients and surgeries are becoming reliant on expensive locums to provide cover. The shortages have left some practices paying agencies up to £160 an hour for locum shifts.
Their use has been criticised after some patients were given the wrong treatment by overseas locum doctors. Six years ago David Gray, 70, of Manea, Cambridgeshire, died after Daniel Ubani, from Germany, who was working as a locum GP, gave him 10 times the recommended amount of diamorphine.
Dr Gerada said: “We are seriously in trouble. Patients can no longer see a GP of their choice and often have to wait to see one. GPs are leaving the job because of high workloads.”
The recruitment crisis has hit hard in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, where there is just one full-time GP serving more than 8, 000 patients. Dr Brian Balmer, chief executive of the Essex Local Medical Committees, warned the future of traditional general practice was at stake. “It is simply going to disappear in some areas, ” he said.
Our research shows the worst areas include parts of central and northern Lancashire, Manchester, Essex, Newham in east London, north-east Lincolnshire, Hounslow in west London, Nottingham, Doncaster, Hull, Wolverhampton, Rotherham and Stoke-on-Trent. NHS England said figures for 2012 showed nearly 7, 000 more GPs than in 2002. Health Education England also aims to boost GP training places by 2.7 per cent. It will mean an extra 2, 000 GPs over five years.