Top Leeds doctor says more support needed as stats show 1,600 patients to every GP

One of the top doctors in Leeds has warned the city can "ill-afford to lose" any more of its experienced GPs, as not enough young doctors are taking jobs at local surgeries.

By Richard Beecham
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 1:24 pm

It follows shocking revelations that Leeds now has an equivalent of more than 1,600 registered patients for every GP, with one practice in the city seeing more than 8,000 per doctor according to latest NHS figures.

Clinical director of North Leeds Primary Care Network Dr Richard Vautrey said surgeries in urban and inner city areas are more likely to struggle to recruit GPs, and that the UK still needs to rely on doctors from overseas to fill GP vacancies as older doctors retire.

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Dr Vautrey says more needs to be done to recruit and hold onto GPs in the city.

"There are just not enough GPs being trained and we are not retaining enough GPs, which leaves existing teams with increased workloads and patients with more difficulty accessing services."

NHS Digital figures show 909,394 patients were registered at GP practices in the NHS Leeds area at the end of January – along with the equivalent of 556 full-time GPs.

This means each GP would be dealing with an average of 1,637 patients if the workload was spread evenly.

But the numbers are far from even across the city's 91 practices - according to the stats, two surgeries had more than 8,000 patients to every full time equivalent GP, while another

had 6,067.

Leeds practices with the lowest number of patients per GP are York Street Health Practice (519), Priory View Medical Centre (697) and Aireborough Family Practice (836).

Dr Vautrey added that the industry was seeing a "mixed picture", and that while the number of GP trainees had been increasing, it wasn't keeping pace with the number of those leaving the job.

He said: "We can ill-afford to lose those experienced doctors who are really needed to provide services in the community.

"We increasingly have an older population who naturally will have more conditions, living with more health problems and need more care. The need for GPs is increasing, but the number we are recruiting isn't keeping pace with the demographics of the population."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a pledge in his 2019 election campaign to employ 6,000 more GPs by 2025, but health secretary Sajid Javid admitted back in November 2021 that the government was not on track to meet that target.

Dr Vautrey called for more to be done to attract medical students into general practice, adding: "The Government admitted they are not going to be able to [increase GP numbers by 6,000], and we need a much more concerted effort from the Government to expand training places and to encourage doctors to choose general practice as a career and sustain general practice."

The Department of Health and Social Care said there were over 1,600 more FTE doctors in December 2021 than two years previously, with a record-breaking number starting training last year.

A spokeswoman added: “We have invested £520 million to improve access and expand GP capacity during the pandemic."