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GP model ‘not sustainable’ in Clacton as Essex faces recruitment problems

Practice Manager Andrew Sarek has had to close Ranworth Surgery in Clacton to new patients as GPs can

Practice Manager Andrew Sarek has had to close Ranworth Surgery in Clacton to new patients as GPs can't cope with demand. Photo: Su Anderson

GPs in Clacton may set-up their own walk-in centre to cope with increasing demand.

What the NEE CCG says:

Sam Hepplewhite, chief officer, said: “We are aware there is a significant shortage of GPs in our county, particularly in some of our coastal practices.

“We have been working with NHS England, the Local Medical Committee, Health Education East of England and our neighbouring CCGs to develop a plan to meet these challenges.

“A workforce development centre was launched in October aimed at enhancing and promoting primary care careers and leadership development.

“Shortages in the primary care workforce are national problems, but we will do everything possible to improve our local situation.”

It is one option being considered by town centre practices, three out of four of which have stopped taking on new patients – a move which requires permission from NHS England.

Clacton is a “pinch-point” area for a national shortage of GPs says Andrew Sarek, practice manager at the Ranworth Surgery in Pier Avenue, and new ways of working must be found.

He said his surgery saw a surge of 120 new patients a month when the first town centre practice suspended new registrations, prompting Ranworth to follow suit seven months ago.

Mr Sarek said: “We knew we could not sustain that – we were spending so much time dealing with new patients we could not deal with our existing patients.

"If two or three GPs leave [Clacton] we could collapse. We would like to reopen our list later this year, and are working with the other practices to see what we can do. We have to work in a different way because the current model is not sustainable."

Andrew Sarek, practice manager, Ranworth Surgery

“The third practice stopped theirs about two weeks ago, and it is probably only a matter of time before the final one does the same. If two or three GPs leave here [Clacton] we could collapse.

“We would like to reopen our list later this year, and are working with the other practices to see what we can do. We have to work in a different way because the current model is not sustainable.

“That might mean sharing staff, including doctors, maybe using more nurse practitioners for minor illnesses.

“Perhaps we could encourage people to come to one centre, maybe based at Clacton Hospital, staffed with nurse practitioners to deal with minor ailments with a supervising GP to look at more complicated things, so doctors can take booked appointments for more chronic diseases.

Ranworth Surgery in Clacton is closed to new patients.Ranworth Surgery in Clacton is closed to new patients.

“This is very early days and blue sky thinking.

“The North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (NEE CCG) has arranged a meeting because it recognises there’s a problem with recruitment.

“There is a major shortage of GPs nationally and somewhere like Clacton with high deprivation, a male life expectancy of 72 years compared to 84 in the surrounding villages, and a high prevalence of diseases like diabetes, asthma and chronic heart disease, is perceived as a difficult place to work.

“It is hard work, our partners are working 12 hours a day seeing patients and that puts people off, but it is extremely rewarding.

“We need to somehow get GPs coming here. Maybe we should offer them some hospital work alongside being a GP to give them a variety?

“NHS England and the NEE CCG offered a golden handshake to anyone coming to the area, and we got a doctor from Manchester who got £9,500 to stay here for at least two years, and that may be one way of doing it.”

A BBC investigation found at least 100 surgeries nationally had applied to stop taking new patients, though 46% of applications were withdrawn or rejected.

The British Medical Association has said many practices are at breaking point.

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