GP waiting times in South Tyneside to be tackled amid shortage of doctors

Plans are being made to tackle the waiting times for patients wanting to see their GP.
Plans are being made to tackle the waiting times for patients wanting to see their GP.

Plans are being made to make it quicker for people in South Tyneside to get a GP appointment - after claims some patients were waiting up to a fortnight.

South Tyneside Council’s People Select Committee launched a report in response to claims sick people have been left waiting too long to see their local doctor.

Recruitment and retention of GPs is a challenge

Matt Brown

One of the reasons for the problem is a shortage of GPs - due to increased workloads - and doctors coming to retirement age.

This was one of the findings from talking to health professionals and patient surveys.

In South Tyneside there were 26 GP practices and, as of March 2015, there were 92 GPs working in the borough.

Thirteen of these are due to reach retirement age within the next five years.

Paul Baldasera, strategy and democracy officer with the council said: “What really struck members was the recruitment and retention issue and issues around the numbers wanting to retire because of their age.

“Basically some GPs were considering walking away.”

“The performance in South Tyneside compares favourably with other areas, but there is a lower patient satisfaction for Hebburn and Jarrow.

A series of recommendations have been made - including South Tyneside CCG working with Gateshead and South Tyneside Local Pharmaceutical Committee to look at the possibility of piloting a pharmacy prescribing scheme, working with other agencies to look at attracting and retaining GPs in the area and offering support to practices where waiting times for routine appointments are two weeks or over.

Matt Brown, director of operations at NHS South Tyneside CCG, said: “Recruitment and retention of GPs is a challenge for the NHS right across the country, and we have a range of initiatives in place to support practices in the borough and make it easier to get an appointment.

“We welcome the committee’s support and will be happy to work together on these issues.

“This week we launched a new scheme to provide more than 300 extra appointments every week - in early mornings, early evenings and weekends - for patients who find it hard to attend during the day.

“Our Think Pharmacy First scheme aims to reduce the pressure on practices by helping around 1800 people every month to get advice on minor problems from trained pharmacists instead of seeing their GP.

“We are also working with NHS England to recruit GPs from overseas to the North East. This initiative is at an early stage but we are hopeful that it will help to attract GPs to South Tyneside practices.”