‘Abysmal’ GP access in Hebburn and Jarrow criticised in report

South Tyneside Council wants action over GP waiting times.
South Tyneside Council wants action over GP waiting times.

The availability of GPs in South Tyneside has been scrutinised in a report which calls for more to be done to ease waiting times for appointments.

Fears over the future of GP numbers has been raised in a list of concerns by South Tyneside Council’s People’s Select Committee.

In a report delivered to the Health and Wellbeing Board by Coun John McCabe, South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group were called on to look at ways to recruit and retain GPs in the borough and look at how waiting times could be reduced for patients seeking appointments.

An earlier report highlighted the fact that a number of GPs working in South Tyneside are set to reach the age of 60 in the next five years - and liable retire.

Concerns were also raised about practices and service levels in Jarrow and Hebburn - which is falling below national and local averages.

This is believed to be as a result of the closure of the walk-in centre at Palmers Hospital.

An increase in the number of homes being built in Hebburn has also raised fears that this will have an impact on the demand for GPs.

Coun McCabe said: “GP access in Hebburn and Jarrow is abysmal compared to neighbouring towns and Whitburn and Boldon.

But this isn’t just a local issue it’s a problem nationally that the government are going to have to take to task.

“They all have a different business models and the better performing practices, people are gravitating towards that service.

“And the areas not best served are struggling to attract GPs.

“There appears to be no succession plans, so what’s going to happen down the line? And we are asking what are the CCG doing about it? As it is only going to get worse.”

He added: “People like myself, live and work in the communities we represent, so we are aware of the people who are waiting over a week for a GP appointment, we want them to start listening to the local councillors and take note of the local intelligence we have.”

Matt Brown, Director of Operations at NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “South Tyneside is one of the best areas in the country for access to GPs, but with a national shortage of primary care staff we are working hard to attract new GPs to the borough. This report is helpful in highlighting some of the issues facing primary care and we are happy to work with the Council to address them.

“In the past few months, we have launched a new scheme offering 300 extra appointments in South Tyneside GP practices every week in early mornings, evenings and at weekends, and these have proved very popular.

“South Tyneside is a fantastic place to live, work and train, and we are keen to work with the council to share that message with newly qualified GPs.”