Revealed: How many patients per GP are there at your surgery?

The number of patients per GP at Suffolk surgeries have been revealed in NHS data

The number of patients per GP at Suffolk surgeries have been revealed in NHS data. Main image of Framlingham Surgery, which is among the county's most overburdened - Credit: WEST SUFFOLK CCG/GOOGLE MAPS

Huge disparities in GP availability across Suffolk have been uncovered in new data, which lays bare the scale of the postcode lottery impacting the county’s primary NHS services.

NHS Digital data reveals that the most oversubscribed surgery in Suffolk has more than 8,000 patients for every doctor, while the least has fewer than 1,000. 

Use our interactive tools below to see how your surgery compares.

Framlingham Medical Practice is the most overburdened service in Suffolk, according to NHS figures, with 8,341 patients for each GP.

With more than 10,000 patients on their books, the practice includes both Framlingham Surgery and Earl Soham Surgery which have seven GPs between them - but their hours only add up to the equivalent of 1.2 full-time doctors.

The NHS data, correct as of March 31 of this year, counts the hours worked by all permanent, fully-qualified GPs (excluding registrars and locums) to produce ‘FTE’ or full-time equivalent figures - so two doctors each working half a week would be recorded as one FTE GP.

Framlingham Surgery, part of Framlingham Medical Practice, which has the highest patient to GP ratio in the county

Framlingham Surgery, part of Framlingham Medical Practice, which has the highest patient to GP ratio in the county - Credit: GOOGLE MAPS

Bosses at the practice said that Framlingham and the surrounding area have a “rapidly growing” population, adding that they aim to recruit additional staff to meet “increasing demand” for GP services.

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Several new housing estates have sprung up around the town and close by over the past few years.

Surgery chiefs said they disagree with the official NHS figures and believe that as of March 2021, they had 5.25 FTE GPs with 10,006 patients on their books - which would have given them a ratio of 1,906 patients per doctor.

They added: “Although the practice’s GP to patient ratio is currently slightly higher than average, all patients are receiving safe and effective care.

“Our staff work really hard to support people’s health and wellbeing and we’re proud of what they do.

“It’s important to remember that our primary health care services are delivered not only by GPs, but by a wide range of skilled health professionals.”

Framlingham Surgery was widely praised by patients in the latest GP patient survey carried out between January and March of this year. Around 81% of 147 people surveyed found it easy to get through by phone and 87% saying they were satisfied overall.

Other oversubscribed surgeries in the data included Mount Farm Surgery in Bury St Edmunds, which had 5,308 patients per GP as of March 2021. 

The practice has seven doctors listed on its website, but their hours only add up to the equivalent of 2.7 FTE GPs. It serves the Moreton Hall estate and surrounding areas. 

Feature on Croasdales Chemist at the Mount Farm Surgery.

Mount Farm Surgery serves Moreton Hall in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Gregg Brown

Despite the surgery being among the busiest in the county, when we called up, we did not have to wait in a queue.

Automated messages said staff were working hard to allocate the appropriate medical professionals, including paramedics and nurse practitioners.

The March data pre-dates the merger of the Chesterfield Drive, Norwich Road and Deben Road practices in Ipswich, which now has 30,000 patients on its books and five FTE GPs, giving it a ratio of almost 6,000 patients per FTE doctor.

Dr Christopher Browning, whose practice in Long Melford is at the other end of the scale as the least-subscribed surgery in Suffolk, said demand for GP services has increased by between 20% and 30% since the first lockdown.

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissionin

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group Picture: WSCCG - Credit: Archant

The West Suffolk clinical commissioning group chairman's surgery has 836 patients per doctor, with a total of 11 FTE GPs.

Bosses at Dr Browning's surgery also disputed the official NHS figure for their facility and said they believe they had 4.8 FTE doctors as of March 2021 and 9,193 patients on their books.

That would have given them a higher patient-GP ratio of 1,885 per doctor, compared with the official NHS figure of 836.

“This hasn’t come suddenly, when we had the first lockdown we had a decrease in demand. It didn’t last very long. We got back to what I would describe as baseline after about a month or so and since then demand has increased slowly,” he said.

He said the number of FTE GPs is slowly increasing meaning surgeries are having to make use of nurses, physiotherapists and even paramedics: “We are having to make use of our additional workforce, non-doctor practitioners of various kinds, with various special interests, who can provide care to patients with specific issues.

“We have for example first contact physiotherapists, who are very good, better in fact than we are, at dealing with musculoskeletal issues.

Doctor with stethoscope

There are large disparities in GP availability across Suffolk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“We are looking to have some additional mental health practitioners, some practices are employing a paramedic who can do some of the hands-on stuff. 

He added: “And we are trying to shift the demand and point it in the appropriate direction when those people are available.”

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