Half of doctor vacancies go unfilled as national shortage of GPs worsens

Half of doctor vacancies go unfilled as national shortage of GPs worsens
Rowan Tree Surgery, Tunbridge Wells

Figures by RCP show that in an 18 month period from January 2018 to September 2019, there were 157 vacancies advertised for GPs and consultants in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex but only 75 of these posts were filled.

Last month, the Rowan Tree Surgery in Showfields, Tunbridge Wells closed its doors for the final time, with its 3,500 registered patients now having to access care from Clanricarde Medical Centre in Tunbridge Wells.

When the closure was announced last year, the surgery said the shortage of GPs in the NHS was a primary cause.

Practice Manager Denise Netherton told the Times: “Since the merger of the two practices, we have been making every effort to maintain at the high quality of service that our patients expect, but this has become increasingly difficult due to the challenges facing general practice, especially with the shortage of GPs in the NHS at the moment.”

The RCP now fear more similar closures in the future, especially in Kent, as around 40 per cent of GPs and senior physicians are set to retire in the next decade.

Professor Donal O’Donoghue, RCP registrar said: “Not only are patients and carers having to wait longer for care, but the wellbeing of doctors up and down the country is suffering due to the immense pressures that come from working in a service that is severely short-staffed.”

He added that the doctors’ group is writing to local MPs to highlight the national shortage of GPs and convince them to lobby the Government to address the GP crisis.

Dr Bob Bowes, a local GP and Chair of NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said recruitment in the area was becoming an issue.

“GP practices are responsible for recruiting their own GPs and this can sometimes be a challenge,” he said.

 “This is because there is a national shortage of GPs and evidence shows newly-qualified doctors are seeking different ways of working, including more flexibility and work-life balance.”

He continued: “In addition, Kent is in direct competition with London for the recruitment of new doctors.  

 “Population increase and rising demand are also placing immense pressure on GP practices across west Kent, not only those facing challenges with recruitment.”

But he added to tackle the ‘significant pressure faced by GPs’ across the country, the NHS is investing in general practice over the next five years to recruit 20,000 specialist health workers.

“Improving access to primary care services is not dependent on all treatment being provided by a GP. As set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, practices are being encouraged to recruit a broad range of clinicians and healthcare professionals to meet their patients’ needs,” added Dr Bowes.

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