Fewer GPs in Portsmouth per population compared to most areas in England

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PATIENTS in the city face a longer wait to see their GP compared to most of the rest of England.

New analysis shows residents are facing a 'postcode lottery’ over seeing a doctor, with the worst-affected areas served by half the number of practitioners as the best.

In Portsmouth there are 2,559 patients per available GP – making it the fifth worst hit place in the country.

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On average there is one GP per 2,038 people in England but there are huge disparities compared to the best served areas including Liverpool, which has 1,614 patients per GP, and Oxfordshire, which has 1,688.

Roger Batterbury, the chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth (HWP), said the group was aware of the shortages but explained how patients could use other methods to be seen by medical staff.

He said: ‘HWP is aware of the stories of a national shortage of GPs, we know that the government has committed to training more doctors which takes time. We are hearing that patients are struggling to make timely GP appointments but the city’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has done an assessment recently and concluded that the current level of primary care services being offered in Portsmouth is suitable for local needs.

‘We contacted Portsmouth CCG recently to ask if there were plans for more provision of health services in the city bearing in mind the current plans for extra housing in small areas around the city. The CCG has concluded that current ratios of primary care services to patients are enough so don’t need to commission an extra GP surgery for anywhere in the city.

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‘People may not be aware that primary care is organised through a series of five primary care networks in which healthcare professionals provide a wide range of primary health care services, such as physiotherapy, mental health support, wellbeing support, information and advice about local services, non-clinical support (known as social prescribing) as well as appointments with GP and nurses. It will take time for patients to get used to accessing this much wider range of healthcare professionals rather than asking for a GP appointment but the support offered will be more targeted to meet the patient’s needs.

‘Care navigators are at the front desk of each GP surgery in Portsmouth and are the first point of access for surgery calls. Care navigators are trained to listen to the patient’s needs and direct them to the most suitable health care professional, which often doesn’t need to be a GP appointment and can often be accessed more quickly.’

He added: ‘HWP is hearing that some patients find it hard to get through on the phone to surgeries, and when they do, they are being offered GP appointments for two or three weeks’ time. We know there is a huge demand in the city for GP appointments, but perhaps patients don’t know about the availability of the same-day urgent access and routine appointments (outside of core hours) that is currently offered by the city’s extended access service based at Lake Road GP Surgery.

‘We have checked that this service is still going, even through the pandemic, and has been offering more appointments outside of core hours to meet demand across the city.’

The data showed the areas with the highest numbers of inhabitants per GP are Fylde and Wyre (2,833), Hull (2,761), Calderdale (2,606), Thurrock (2,592) and Portsmouth (2,559).

And the lowest five are Liverpool (1,614), Oxfordshire (1,688), Wirral (1,720), West Suffolk (1,731) and East Staffordshire (1,745).

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Steve McInnes, head of primary care commissioning at NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group, said: ‘Record numbers of people are now training to become GPs, with up to 4,000 people nationally expected to start this year. We are doing everything we can to support our GP practices and deliver the best care for our residents, including investment in our multi-faceted workforce so we can direct patients to a clinician who best meets their need.

‘This might include a pharmacist, social prescriber, paramedic, physiotherapist or nurse, who are all part of our highly-skilled front-line primary care team.’

The analysis was commissioned by the Liberal Democrat Party, based on research by the House of Commons library.

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