Is North Somerset facing a doctor recruitment crisis?

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Doctor - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

GP practices are at ‘breaking point’ due to rising workloads, increasing patient demand and an impending recruitment crisis.

Experts suggest that by 2020, 35 extra GPs will be needed in North Somerset to cope with rising population numbers.

According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) employs 121 full-time GPs for a population of 206,000.

By 2020, that population is expected to rise to 221,000 and an extra 35 GPs will be needed to meet Government guidelines.

This would mean every GP practice would need to recruit an extra one or two doctors.

The British Medical Association (BMA) – the trade union representing 170,000 doctors in the UK – says doctors are already under pressure.

BMA’s GP committee chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “General practice is at breaking point with more than half of GP practices in the South West telling the BMA that the quality of service to patients has deteriorated in the past 12 months and almost seven out of 10 practices reporting that the current workload is unmanageable a lot or all of the time.

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“This is the result of rising workload, including increasing patient demand for appointments which is placing unsustainable pressure on GP services that have been starved of resources and staff, leaving patients waiting longer to see a GP.”

An NHS England South West spokesman said it has launched a new recruitment campaign in a bid to get more doctors into general practice.

The organisation will also pump more funds into enticing GPs who have left the workplace back into the role.

The spokesman said: “We know we’re going to need more GPs across the area in the coming years, which is why we’re recruiting more trainees and encouraging former GPs back to the profession.

“We also want to reduce the workload of existing local doctors such as by increasing other staff like practice nurses and pharmacists.”

Healthwatch North Somerset – an independent organisation which measures patient satisfaction with local health provision – says most surgeries have found new, less traditional ways of treating patients to cope with the demand.

Ms Jacques said: “Practices nationally are struggling to recruit new GPs, creating pressure on their ability to cope with demand and provide timely appointments.

“Innovative GP practices have found additional ways to manage the flow of patients through triaging and telephone appointments for those who don’t need to come into the surgery.”