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New steps taken to help deal with the shortage of GPs in Haverhill

With NHS Digital figures revealing the difficulties faced by Haverhill's two GP Practices in recruiting doctors, the organisation responsible for delivering local health services has reaffirmed its commitment to tackling the issue.

The NHS figures show that the Haverhill Family Practice and Christmas Maltings and Clements Practice has a total of just 7.67 full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs to serve 32,258 registered patients.

Haverhill Family Practice. Picture by Mecha Morton.
Haverhill Family Practice. Picture by Mecha Morton.

When compared to the situation in Newmarket, where 32,172 patients are served by 21.33 FTE GPs, Haverhill's difficulties are put into a stark context.

In the week that the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced the launch of the GP Support Hub, which is aimed at retaining the services of senior GPs – and boosting new recruits to the profession - a spokesman for the CCG, said: “Both Haverhill GP practices have been working hard to recruit GPs and a new GP is set to begin working at the Clements practice from May.

"This GP will be setting-up to train new GPs which will help recruitment in the longer term.

“Like other parts of the country there are on-going issues with the recruitment of GPs, meaning there still remain vacant posts.

“It is important to remember that primary care services are not only delivered by GPs.

"Both practices have employed other highly-skilled primary care practitioners, in addition to locum GPs, to meet patient demand and these roles are not reflected in the national NHS Digital figures.

“Despite having a higher than national average GP : patient ratio patients are receiving safe services and staff are working really hard to do their very best for patients.

"The Haverhill practices continue to offer significantly more appointment per patients compared with similar towns.

“We know that Haverhill is a vibrant town with a lot to offer.

"Through the county-wide Suffolk GP Support Hub, and other recruitment initiatives, we hope that we can encourage more health professionals to return to or join the primary care workforce in the local area and we will continue to work towards that goal.”

The GP Support Hub hopes to attract newly qualified medics into choosing a career in general practice rather than opting to work in hospitals or other health facilities.

It also aims to persuade doctors who are currently considering retirement, or those who have already retired, to extend their careers.

Hub staff will be available at the end of a phone line to provide serving and would-be GPs with information, advice and guidance.

They will also be on hand to support retired doctors who want to return to the service and GPs looking to get back to work after having children.

The hub will be run by the Suffolk GP Federation and funded by the NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk, NHS West Suffolk and NHS North East Essex clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

It is part of a national drive to retain and recruit more GPs. Currently more are retiring than completing the training to enter the profession.

Dr Paul Driscoll, medical director at the Suffolk GP Federation, which managed the Christmas Maltings and Clements Practice, said: “We are dedicated to improving the career opportunities of doctors and other healthcare professionals working in general practice in Suffolk and north east Essex.

“As elsewhere in the UK, the local area faces many challenges in recruiting and retaining GPs.

“We hope by providing support and advice on all matters relating to GP development, return to work, health and wellbeing, recruitment and appraisals we can help to encourage GPs to come and work here.

“We also want more senior GPs to consider working for longer and would encourage them to contact our dedicated support line for advice”.

Dr Christopher Browning, chair of the NHS West Suffolk CCG, said: “The CCG is pleased to be working with Suffolk GP Federation to offer this new local service for GPs in Suffolk and north east Essex.

“The GP Support Hub would particularly like to make contact with any GPs in the local community who are thinking of returning to practice.

“There is a wide range of new job opportunities available and education and training packages to support them in returning to work.

“We value all of our GPs and want to offer a bespoke advice service for our existing GPs and those who would like to come and work in the area.”

Dr Mark Shenton, chair of the NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG, said: "Locally there are many GP career development schemes and advice networks available, but access to them is inconsistent and confusing.

“The hub will help GPs navigate and apply for support from appropriate schemes. It will be able to provide confidential advice and administration support, which is often a headache for GPs.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the service can contact 01473-350820, info@thegphub.org or www.thegphub.org.

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