Difficulty in recruiting GPs is a major health crisis says doctor

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- Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant.

A leading GP has told how Norfolk and Waveney is facing 'a major health crisis' as the area struggles to recruit enough doctors for its surgeries.

While the problem is nationwide, the issue of NHS recruitment has come under scrutiny following Watton Medical Practice's decision to de-register 1,5000 patients.

A Breckland District Council scrutiny report this summer found there were 50 GP vacancies in Norfolk, which represented an overall 10pc shortfall.

Yesterday, Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee quizzed health bosses about the issue and were told by Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee chairman Dr Tim Morton that 'we have got a major health crisis'.

The pressure being put on surgeries by large housebuilding schemes in communities across Norfolk and Waveney was raised as a concern, as GPs say they are often only consulted late into the planning stages, and Dr Morton said the construction of large new care homes could significantly add to local GP workloads.

He said: 'The GPs premises are a huge issue and it's compounding the issue. Most young GPs look at the financial burden of providing premises and walk a mile. That's why we have very few GPs coming in.'

Dr Mark Sanderson, of NHS England's East Anglia Area Team and who works as a Cambridgeshire GP, said: 'Many trainees want to be locums, which means it's harder to get good doctors to work in your practice in a substantive position.'

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James Elliott, of the Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group and the Strategic Resilience Group for Central Norfolk, said he believed Norfolk's stable GP workforce in the past had helped to keep emergency admissions at hospitals low, but now the pressure at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital was 'huge'.

While the committee acknowledged workforce planning is ultimately the responsibility of Health Education England at a national level, members were urged to see if there were steps that could be taken locally to improve the situation – for example, seeing if councils could support local practices by helping to fund adverts to attract GPs to the area as a place to live and work.

Ross Collett, head of the Norfolk and Suffolk Workforce Partnership for Health Education East of England, said one option was to try to set up a GP training programme which gave doctors the chance to experience different areas of work in an attempt to develop and retain GPs.

Do you have a health story? Contact Tom Bristow on 01603 772419 or email tom.bristow@archant.co.uk

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