LOCAL GP practices are in crisis due to a shortage of doctors – with ‘no light at the end of the tunnel for at least ten years’.
The warning comes from Dr Simon Parkinson, secretary of Worcestershire Local Medical Committee, who said the crisis had spread right across the county with surgeries at least 14 GPs short, one on the verge of closure, and doctors leaving the profession faster than they could be replaced.
He estimated that the crisis equated to 90,000 lost appointments in Worcestershire alone and called for an open and transparent debate between health professionals, politicians and the general public to deal with the crisis.
“The Government said it would create 5,000 more GPs by the end of this Parliament and this is just not going to happen. The number we need is 10,000 more, 5,000 just keeps us standing still,” he said.
“If you think it takes nine, ten years to train a doctor in general practice, that’s ten years down the line, and that’s if the political will is there,
“Even if they managed to get 5,000 new doctors the number of patients they could see would actually go down as most as choosing to only work three or three and a half days a week because of the pressures of the job, preferring a better life/work balance over money or choosing to do other clinical work.”
He said doctors were leaving due to the pressures in general practice, that when he started there would have been 60 to 70 applicants for a doctor’s post in the Vale but that now they might be lucky to get one, and even then they would probably be leaving another practice, plunging that one into crisis.
Dr Parkinson blamed chronic underfunding, rising expectations among the public and the sheer success of the NHS – that people were living longer and enjoying a better quality of life, but while often having complex medical needs.
He also absolutely refuted any suggestion that the crisis was due to an influx in immigration.
“For many years the average patient saw their GP about four times a year – now its eight times a year, people are less tolerant of minor illnesses, and there has been a significant growth in lifestyle problems, mild to moderate stress, anxiety and so on.
“However the biggest growth is in the over 70s who are relatively well and fit but have multiple issues and require multiple medicines.”
He said the solution was ‘demand management’ as a means of controlling the flow of patients.
“Demand management is a dirty word in the NHS but we will have to tell people what we do and what we do not do. It means significant amounts of what we currently do will have to be done by someone else, for example nurses, pharmacists, mental health workers, people dealing with social prescribing, housing problems and so on.
“We cannot continue to have a system where you can access whatever you want whenever you want it. We need to have this debate.
“This may not be what the public want to hear, but our politicians need to be a bit more honest about this because our profession can no longer carry on as it is.”