Portsmouth health bosses say it 'isn't all about numbers' as figures reveal GP shortfall of more than 100
DESPITE a shortfall of GPs across Portsmouth and surrounding areas, doctors have stressed that it ‘isn’t all about numbers’.
Portsmouth CCG is facing a shortfall of 52 GPs, according to data collected by Trades Union Congress, and pressures have seen a number of surgery mergers in the last few years including Southsea Medical Centre and The Devonshire Practice which became the Lighthouse Group Practice last year.
The city has seen a decrease of 18 per cent in the number of GPs since 2015 and a five per cent increase in the number of patients in the same time period.
But health bosses have said primary healthcare is not just about GPs any more.
Dr Linda Collie, Clinical Leader for NHS Portsmouth CCG, said: ‘There are arguably greater calls on our time now than ever before - but this is not all about GP numbers. It’s not only GPs that see and treat patients in GP practices these days.
‘Many practices, especially the larger ones, have a wider range of clinicians available - including clinical pharmacists and specialist nurses – so that GPs see those patients who would most benefit from their time.
‘Many patients are also seeking help online direct from their GPs via eConsult. This service didn’t exist in the Portsmouth area five years ago and the thousands of patients using this service are freeing up a big number of appointments in the system, again for those people with the most pressing need.’
Fareham and Gosport CCG need another 38 GPs and there are 22 more GPs required in South Eastern Hampshire CCG – on the basis that there should be 1,600 patients per GP.
Both areas have seen an increase in the number of GPs since 2015, four per cent and five per cent respectively, but both areas have also seen a small increase in patients.
It comes after a number of GP surgeries in the city have merged due to lack of GPs.
Hanway Medical Practice, which is in Hanway Road, Buckland, and also has a surgery in Stubbington Avenue, North End, revealed yesterday plans to merge with Portsdown Group Practice as a way to secure its future for its 14,000 patients as two senior GPs are set to retire this year.
In July last year, the Devonshire Practice merged with Southsea Medical Centre to become The Lighthouse Group Practice after problems with GP recruitment and retention as well as staff sickness.
Dr Collie added: ‘GP recruitment and retention are obviously big talking points nationally for the NHS and continue to have an impact in Portsmouth, where a number of GP practices have merged for reasons which include increasing their resilience and the pool of clinicians that they have available to provide continuous care for their patients, especially during times of GP sickness or leave.
‘GP recruitment and retention remain important issues which the NHS needs to address and the government has said it is looking at. But I think there is also a gradual realisation from an increasing number of our patients that seeing a GP is not always the most appropriate or fastest way of dealing with their health concern.’
The GP Patient Survey runs each year and results from that suggest Portsmouth residents have trouble making GP appointments. Whereas 84 per cent of patients in Portsmouth say they were given enough time during an appointment, and 96 per cent had confidence in the healthcare professional they saw, only 41 per cent said they could speak to their preferred GP when they wanted to, below the 48 per cent national average.
Roger Batterbury from Healthwatch Portsmouth added: ‘I think we can say we want more GPs but we can’t get them from nowhere and that is a political issue in terms of funding cuts so we have to find other ways.
‘Healthwatch has seen surgeries change and although people want to see a GP when they go to the surgery sometimes a physiotherapist or practice nurse may suit better.’
Leader of Portsmouth City Council Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has proposed a motion for opposing closures of surgeries in Portsmouth and wants the city council to look at ways it can provide buildings and backroom services to entice GPs into the city.
To find out if your surgery has eConsult click here.