Northamptonshire needs at least 50 per cent more GPs in the next five years to meet patient demand for appointments, latest figures show.
The gap between appointments needed and GP slots available is highlighted in a report into general practice by the county’s watchdog, Healthwatch Northamptonshire.
We want to work with decision makers to talk about what can be done to help inform the plans to tackle this situation.Rosie Newbigging of Healthwatch Northamptonshire
It says that the county needs 183 more doctors before 2020 on top of the 333 it has currently. That is a rise of 54 per cent, which means it has one of the biggest gaps of any area in the country.
Not only do patients get frustrated, they often end up visiting A&E departments with minor problems.
Rosie Newbigging, chief executive of the watchdog, said: “This is a real challenge for the local NHS given the figures published by the Royal College of General Practitioners for both Corby and Nene.
“As the champion for local people in health and social care, we want to work with decision makers to talk about what can be done to help inform the plans to tackle this situation.”
The ‘Patient Experience of GP Services in Northamptonshire’ report is based on interviews with 225 patients and 25 surgeries.
Some practice managers admitted that filling staff vacancies was an issue.
One practice was having trouble finding suitable candidates for a vacancy and two more were concerned about filling GP vacancies and the impact of being understaffed on the other doctors.
Another said that locums were costly and there was a lack of cover in their area, making it hard to cover annual leave and sickness.
One practice manager said that some newly-qualified GPs move out of the area once qualifying.
However, other practices involved in GP training were more optimistic about recruiting new GPs.
Commenting from the Royal College of General Practitioners, its chair, Dr Maureen Baker said: “Our patients deserve access to excellent GP care and services wherever in the country they live.
“The figures show how critical it is to act now if we are to have enough GPs to meet all our patients’ needs over the next five years.
“We have already heard pledges of more GPs from the main political parties – and this really brings home why this is so necessary and why these promises need to convert into tangible results, including more GPs and practice staff, sooner rather than later.”