Shortage of GPs causing concern in South Tyneside

GP surgery waitinmg times are a major concern in South Tyneside
GP surgery waitinmg times are a major concern in South Tyneside

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is being urged to act to halt a potential timebomb of failed GP recruitment in South Tyneside.

Councillors in the borough want to see him take drastic measures to stop doctors quitting - after shock revelations that 30% os GPs in the borough want to retire in the next five years.

Of the borough’s 92 GPs, 77 percent admit to looking to leave their jobs early, accoding to a new year-long report into primary care services.

It also shows South Tyneside is curranely short of 14 GP posts and facing a serious recruitment problem.

It found GPs are ‘drowning’ under a workload of up to 80 hours a week - a situation the report describes as a “looming crisis”.

The figures come on top of evidence that appointment times to see a doctor in parts of Jarrow and Hebburn are over two weeks – the longest in South Tyneside.

Borough council and health chiefs plan to write to Mr Hunt to express their deep concerns.

They say one possible remedy is for him to launch national awareness campaign, aimed at alleviating pressure on GPs.

It would encourage the public to turn to other health professionals, such as pharmacists, for treatment for minor ailments.

But they warn to have any impact, it must be organised by central government and as hard-hitting as initiatives against smoking and drink-driving.

Coun John McCabe, chair of the council’s People Select Committee, which commissioned the report, said: “Jeremy Hunt is responsible for the nation’s health, and he needs to act.

“He should back the recommendations of this report. There is a compelling argument for pharmacists to do more.

“I am also seriously concerned that there is no succession planning to replace GPs who are retiring or looking to leave.

“They are under intense pressure and many are looking to retire or leave the profession – they have an unsustainable workload.

“I don’t know how we will maintain services, when so many will be going.”

The commission, which heard evidence from regional health experts, was appointed last year with a brief to investigate how primary care is planned and delivered in South Tyneside.

GP recruitment and retention and what measures were being taken to ensure future gaps were filled, were also examined.

The report said the role of community pharmacies should be promoted, including the piloting of a pharmacy prescribing scheme.

Other recommendations include concerted efforts to find out how to attract and retain GPs.

Previously recognised shortcomings in GP services in Jarrow and Hebburn, especially lengthy appointment times, were also highlighted by the study.