GP shortage leaves rural patients waiting

A shortage of rural GPs has left rural patients in Lincolnshire waiting four-weeks to see their doctor.

Government action was needed to help recruit more GPs and other health professionals, said Manjeet Gill, chief executive of West Lindsey District Council

"Some of our practices have four week waiting times to see a GP and have failed to recruit despite many efforts at recruiting and many forms of incentives and attraction packages."

West Lindsey councillors recently passed a motion calling on the government to provide extra funding to attract GPs and health professionals to the area.

    See also: Rural GPs surgeries 'in crisis'

They are proposing a system of "rural weighting" payments by the NHS and government to make it more financially attractive for doctors to work in rural settlements and market towns.

The motion was submitted by councillor Sheila Bibb.

"Here in West Lindsey, there are places within the district where appointments with a doctor involve a four-week wait – longer than the national average," she said.

This was a "very different experience" to that found in many urban areas – and in part due to the inability to attract GP's to serve in a rural area.

The council says a system of "rural weighting" – similar to the accepted practice of "London weighting" would attract much-needed physicians to the district.

In turn, this would facilitate the better provision of health services.

Councillor Bibb said: "We would like to encourage other rural authorities to support us in this and lobby their MPs as well."

The proposal is being supported by the SPARSE group of rural local authorities and the Rural Services Network, which represents a range of rural service providers.

Just 18 months ago, the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said more than one in 10 family doctor roles in England were vacant.

Many practices were having to rely on locum doctors, it warned.

An RCGP survey of 549 practices in England found that 10.2% of full time equivalent positions were vacant – 61% of which were being filled by locum or agency staff.

Of the practices surveyed, 64% reported that finding enough locum doctors to meet growing patient demand was either difficult or very difficult.


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