GP service 'very close to collapse', Suffolk doctor warns
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
The GP service in the UK is "very close to the point of collapse" as increased workloads prompt more to leave the profession, a leading Suffolk doctor has warned.
Dr John Havard, of Saxmundham Health, said the current situation around GP shortages and recruitment "should be a real worry for all of us".
Last month, NHS Digital figures revealed there were 11.7% fewer GPs in Ipswich and east Suffolk in March 2021 compared with March 2016.
In west Suffolk, there were 2.8% fewer GPs in March 2021 compared with March 2016.
The statistics also showed there are 43 fully qualified, full-time equivalent GPs per 100,000 people in Ipswich and east Suffolk, and 50 GPs per 100,000 in west Suffolk.
Last month, a report on the provision of GP services in Suffolk found that doctors in the county were dealing with up to twice the amount of patients of counterparts in other countries.
Dr Havard said: "When I applied for my job at Saxmundham there were 120 applicants and now adverts are lucky to get one.
"The country has a real problem here because as partnership contracts are handed back to NHS England the experience is that it costs three times as much for a practice to be run by a company and the CQC ratings fall.
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"Partnerships are the glue that hold primary care and the wider NHS together. Don’t forget that over 90% of patient contact with the NHS occur in primary care.
"Adverse press is bound to affect young doctors who therefore choose to work in hospitals. As the work gets harder more GPs give up which makes it even harder for those who remain. The GP service is very close to the point of collapse and that should be a real worry for all of us.
"Patients complain because they see us as the ‘system’ whereas we are actually victims too – we should all strive to protect the GP/patient relationship because we are on the same side and we are here to guide and support patients through their NHS journeys."
A record number of people started GP training in 2021, with the total intake reaching 4,000 for the first time according to figures from Health Education England.
The government has a target of increasing the number of GPs across the country by 6,000 by 2025 - although health secretary Sajid Javid has already said that figure is unlikely to be reached due to the amount of GPs retiring early.
Responding to the training statistics, Mr Javid said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that a record 4,000 people have started GP training in 2021.
“I want to thank everyone working in primary care, and all those beginning training.
“A career as a GP is hugely rewarding and we are committed to supporting our dedicated primary care teams.”
A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk CCG, said: “It’s so important to recognise that primary care services are delivered by many different health care professionals, not only GPs.
“Practice nurses and healthcare assistants, and other health professionals such as physiotherapists, nurse practitioners and mental health professionals, work as part of a team to deliver the best of care to patients.
“GPs remain a vital part of that wider healthcare team, but primary care is more than ever being provided by a skilled mix of health professionals.
“The results of the national patient/GP survey show that our local GP practices continue to be highly rated and are performing better than the national average.
“We know how hard our teams work and we continue to support them in recruiting a broad range health professionals to offer safe, quality care across east and west Suffolk.”