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PostPosted: 21 Dec 2019 19:06 
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Investigation by Times of London reveals that a national shortage of GPs has left some surgeries with one permanent doctor caring for as many as 11,000 patients.

Staff shortages have become the most critical problem facing the health service. The number of permanent fully qualified GPs in England has fallen by 1,700. Since 2015 six per cent of these GPs have left the NHS while patient numbers have risen from 57 to 60 million. As well as a general shortage of doctors, many GPs are retiring early or choosing to work fewer hours. Complaints from doctors have included pressurised working conditions, bureaucracy and complex pension rules that mean it can cost them to work overtime.

Surgeries are paid about £150 a year per patient on their list, although this may vary depending on other factors. One practice with 10,300 patients in Walsall, West Midlands, has no permanent GP and is being run by three long-term locums. For every 1000 patients registered under a doctor the practice is paid £150,000 a year. Usually a GP is allowed to have 2000 patients registered under him/her. The average number of registered patients per GP in England has risen to 2,087 - an extra 56 people compared with last year - according to new official figures. One surgery in Maidstone, Kent, reported having one permanent GP for its 11,000 patients. It is still open despite applying for closure last year and stating that it had “several significant periods of staff absences”. About two per cent of practices have more than 6,000 patients per GP.

Elderly patients and parents of young children say they have had to call ambulances or visit hospital A&E departments for problems including chest infections and dizziness because it is so difficult to see their doctor.

In 2015 there were 28,631 FTE GPs in England who were fully qualified and employed permanently. At the latest count in September 2019 this was 26,958, a fall of almost six per cent per cent. Surveys have also shown a rising dependence on locums, who move between practices and can earn as much as GP partners.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the government’s recruitment pledge “needs to be delivered urgently, and we need to see detailed plans as to how this will be achieved”. He added: “It is not right or safe that some GPs are responsible for looking after so many patients, as this investigation has found.”

Anita Charlesworth, of the Health Foundation think tank, said: “While it is positive that the government has acknowledged the importance of reversing this decline, it is hard to see how this can be delivered in the timescales set out.”

Following Brexit, NHS will soon be looking to recruit doctors from the subcontinent. Although the remuneration may look attractive doctors thinking about moving to UK must analyse the plus and minus points of working for their health service before making a decision.

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