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British regions at highest risk of GP shortages

 
  • Eleven areas of the UK have been identified as at a ‘high risk’ of a shortage
  • In seven of these areas, more than 20 per cent of doctors are aged over 55     
  • Experts warn the NHS is ‘fighting a losing battle’ unless more young GPs join
  • Others say an ‘avalanche of work’ is putting hopeful doctors off the profession
  • Past research suggests flexible hours may keep older GPs in the job longer

Claudia Tanner For Mailonline

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We have heard the stark warnings about the impact the ageing population is placing on health services.

Yet, new figures suggest an alarming number of older GPs may trigger a health crisis.

Eleven English regions have been identified as ‘high risk’ for a GP shortage as an increasing number of doctors approach retirement age. 

In seven of these areas, more than 20 per cent of doctors are over 55 – prompting fears the problem may be imminent.  

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has warned the NHS would be ‘fighting a losing battle’ if more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it.

The findings come as a leading doctor from the British Medical Association’s GP committee declared the UK’s general practice is on the ‘brink of collapse’ as an ‘avalanche of work’ is deterring young doctors from joining the profession.

Map reveals the English regions where most GPs aged over 55 work, suggesting a future crisis 

Results, published by the Health Service Journal, were compiled by NHS Improvement to highlight the areas at the greatest risk of GP supply problems.

Kent and Medway (24.2 per cent), Somerset (24 per cent) and Lincolnshire (22.5 per cent) were found to have the highest proportions of GPs aged over 55.

Regions considered to have a medium GP crisis risk include areas such as Sussex, Coventry and Northumberland, where 18.2 per cent, 17.7 per cent and 17.4 per cent of doctors are aged over 55 respectively.

Derbyshire has the lowest proportion of GPs over 55 (10.9 per cent), followed by Leicester and Nottinghamshire (both 12.4 per cent).

The NHS Improvement’s report on the data said: ‘High numbers of older GPs could be indicative of future supply problems.’

Leading expert Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: ‘Even a seemingly secure practice is just one partner away from retiring to set off a domino effect, which could lead to collapse.’  

The RCGP said retaining the existing workforce ‘must be a top priority’.

Its Chair Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Progress is being made in recruiting more junior doctors into general practice, but overall GP numbers are down on last year.

‘No matter how many more trainees we recruit, if more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it, we are fighting a losing battle. 

‘Given that these figures show more than 20 per cent of GPs are approaching average retirement age in some areas, it hammers home that retaining our existing workforce must become a top priority.

‘Ultimately we need to improve the working conditions for all GPs – and alleviate the intense resource and workforce pressures facing our profession.’

Dr Nagpaul said GP practices have become ‘frighteningly vulnerable’, highlighting the ‘avalanche of work’ facing doctors that is leaving the service ‘several thousand GPs short’, in a recent speech to the national conference of Local Medical Committees, which represents grassroot GPs.  

He accused politicians of turning a blind eye to ‘spiraling pressures’ affecting the health and social care systems in England. 

In the UK, GPs can retire at 60, 65 or 67 years of age, depending on when they joined the NHS pension scheme.

Last month, NHS England launched a scheme offering financial and training incentives to keep GPs in the profession.

NHS England claims its past research suggests that experienced GPs may remain practicing if they had an opportunity to work more flexibly.  

Reductions to the lifetime pension limit allowance, made in 2015, may have contributed to the rising number of GPs retiring early – a point raised recently by the Commons public accounts committee.

Its report said: ‘We were concerned about the impact that pension arrangements are having on the retention of GPs. 

‘The Department of Health told us the arrangements have contributed to GPs leaving the profession.’

MailOnline has approached NHS Improvement for comment.

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Article source: http://healthmedicinet.com/i2/british-regions-at-highest-risk-of-gp-shortages/