GP staffing crisis – patients needing new doctors

Most daily papers today are running stories regarding the GP shortage – Charlie Cooper for The Independent writes – Thousands of patients have had to find a new GP because their local practice has closed, as staff shortages and workload pressures take there toll on surgeries, figures show.

In England, Scotland and Wales, 61 practices have closed since April 2013 which has forced more than 160,000 people to register somewhere new, figures obtained via Freedom of Information (FOI) requests show.

General PractitionerClosures are being forced by problems both in recruiting new GPs and in retaining the existing workforce. The figures, obtained by the GPs’ magazine Pulse, were described as “the tip of an icebergh” by one senior GP.

The closures will be of concern to the Government, which has pledged to expand access with all patients able to visit their surgery, seven days a week, 8am until 8pm, by 2020.

Data released by the Government last year indicated that more than 500 practices had closed between 2009 and mid-2014. These also include practices lost through mergers and takeovers.

Practice closures are piling pressure on other GPs who must take on the displaced patients, doctors’ leaders said. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, told Pulse: “There are many practices on the brink of collapse, while others are reducing the level of services they can offer.”

Dr Robert Morley, of Birmingham’s Local Medical Committee, said the situation was “absolutely dire and getting worse”.

“We have small partnerships that are becoming unviable becuse of issues of recruitment, retention, impossible workload, GP illness and ‘single-handers’ [GPs running a practice alone] retiring. Practices are also being closed by the Care Quality Commission,” he said. The GP workforce is ageing, and the heavy demands of the job – many GPs now routinely see 60 patients a day – are forcing many to opt for early retirement.

In England, 2,688 GPs were recruited in 2014, leaving nearly 400 posts unfilled. In contrast, Wales and Scotland were able to fill around 90 per cent of their GP training posts.

A Department of Health spokesman said it was taking the necessary steps to deal with the situation and said plans for seven-day services were “firmly on track”.

“We are “firmly on track”, for a fragmented and ever worsening health service that will only be satisfactory for those who can pay”

Two-thirds of English NHS Trusts set to fall into the red

THE INDEPENDENT (Morris. N 05/05/2015 P.4) reports that two-thirds of English NHS Trusts are expected to fall into the red this year, raising fears that hospital managers could be forced to cut services, lay off staff and close wards.

A private analysis by NHS Providers, which represents foundation trusts, found that 64 per cent of 98 trusts would make a projected loss in 2015-16 of £759million.

Their forecast joint deficit is three times more than they recorded last year and is the equivalent of £1.86bn across all 240 English trusts.

Those heading for the biggest losses include Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (projected £52.1m), Mid Essex Hospital Services (£45m) and Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals (£43.8m).

The survey did not cover Scotland or Wales, where health is a devolved issue.

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, will claim the survey is fresh proof the NHS is in “grave danger” under David Cameron.

“Today we discover the financial bombshell he has kept hidden away from everyone until now,” Mr Miliband will say. “two-thirds of hospitals face having to make swingeing cuts, not, at some point in the future, but this year because of a cash crisis made in Downing Street.Cameron and Miliband“That will mean staff cut, beds lost and services closed. And it is why we need Labour’s better plan for the NHS – a fully funded plan to get more resources into the NHS  and start turning things around, a real plan with real money for real action right now”

The King’s Fund warned last week that the health service faced its worst funding problems in its recent history. The think tank said it appeared to have overspent its budget by more than £800m in 2014-15 despite receiving emergency Treasury funds. It also found that waiting times at A&E departments were at their longest since 2003.

Mr Cameron declared last week that the health service was “my life’s work” and said: “I profoundly believe that the NHS grows with the conservatives.”

The Conservatives have pledged to find the extra £8bn which Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS England, said hospitals would need by 2020 to cope with the increasing pressures on them.

The television chef Delia Smith yesterday endorsed the Labour party because of its stance on health. “What I believe profoundly, is the party that campaigned for [the NHS] and created it will be the best one to nurture and sustain it for the future,” she said. “We are all fully aware of the strain it’s under, and we each have a duty to do all we can to preserve this most precious asset that makes such a vital contribution to human well-being.

“Oh Mr Cameron! – ‘the NHS grows with the Conservatives’ – unbelievable!!!”