GP shortage: ‘Leeds on the critical list’

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Patients are being hit by a critical shortage of GPs in Leeds, doctors’ leaders have warned.

Half of GP practices surveyed had a doctor vacancy in the past year – and nearly one in five could not fill the job.

Almost a third of practices told GPs’ organisation the Leeds Local Medical Committee (LMC) they couldn’t offer enough appointments to meet the needs of patients.

Dr Richard Vautrey, assistant medical secretary of Leeds LMC, said the Government needed to take urgent action. “GPs are hugely frustrated at not being able to meet the growing needs of their patients,” he said. “They know patients are waiting too long.”

Earlier this year, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported how almost half of patients in A&E units in Leeds had gone straight there without seeking other medical help because of waits to get GP appointments.

The new survey by Leeds LMC involved 41 GP practices, nearly 40 per cent of the total in the city, and the vast majority said they were finding it difficult to get locum doctors to cover shifts. Dr Vautrey said historically there hadn’t been problems recruiting GPs in Leeds but a national workforce crisis was having an impact, especially in deprived communities. “There are simply not enough GPs to go around. We are struggling to meet current demand, never mind future demands on services.”

He said that spending on GP services had fallen from 11.5 per cent of NHS funding in 2006 to 7.5 per cent now. But he welcomed a £1.2bn investment in primary care facilities announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn Statement.

“There are many practices which want to take on extra doctors but don’t have the space,” he said. “Practice premises are a fundamental part of the problem and it’s good that the Government have finally listened to us, but this will take time to tackle.”

Dr Vautrey added that efforts to cut pressure on hospitals would require “significant expansion” in GP and community services and there was an urgent need for the Government to value general practice, so practices not only have the resources to take on more staff but that there is an increase in the number of medics choosing the field.