Number of GPs in Wigan falls amid concerns about national shortage

GP numbers in Wigan are falling, amid warnings the NHS is facing a crippling shortage of doctors.

The Health Foundation warns serious workforce shortfalls across England pose a significant risk to the quality of healthcare over the next decade.

NHS England figures show there were the equivalent of 204 full-time GPs in the NHS Wigan Borough CCG area at the end of May.

This was down from 215 in June 2021 – the most easily comparable figures from last year.

The number of full-time equivalent GPs in Wigan fell from 215 to 204 in 12 months

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Of them, 102 were partners, 47 were salaried GPs and 44 were in training. There were also 11 regular locum GPs and the equivalent of less than one full-time GP on retainer.

Across England, there were 35,626 FTE GPs at the end of May – up from 34,726 at the end of June.

However, analysis by the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre suggests there is a shortage of around 4,200 FTE GPs nationwide.

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Researchers project this could rise to 10,700 by 2030-31, and if an increasing number leave the profession due to burnout, the estimated shortfall could double – meaning around half of posts would be vacant.

Linda Scott, director of primary care (Wigan) for NHS Greater Manchester, said: “GP practice teams include a variety of clinicians and roles, including the GP.

"Whilst the GP is important, many patients can often get the help they need from another member of the team. This may include an advanced practice nurse, pharmacist, mental health practitioner, pharmacist or physiotherapist.

“We are working with practices to both retain and recruit more GPs as well as supporting them to introduce new team members that will help them to best support the needs of their patients.”

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The Government has promised to recruit 6,000 extra GPs by 2024, but the Health Foundation says it is unlikely to achieve this.

Director of research Anita Charlesworth said: "It’s sobering that over the next decade things are set to get worse, not better.

"General practice is vital for a high quality and efficient health system, but the pressures it faces are longstanding, significant and growing."

The NHS England figures show the Wigan GP workforce is older than elsewhere in the country.

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Just six FTE GPs (three per cent) were under 30 years old – compared to eight per cent across England.

Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "GPs and our teams have been working under intense workload and workforce pressures for many years, but the pandemic has exacerbated these pressures.

"More consultations are being made every month in general practice than before the pandemic, and the care being delivered is increasingly complex.

"Yet, although recruitment efforts mean more GPs are in training than ever before, numbers of fully trained, full-time equivalent GPs are falling."

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The Department of Health and Social Care said a record-breaking number of GPs started training last year.

A spokesman said: “We are hugely grateful to GPs and their staff for the care they provide to patients and we are working hard to support and grow the workforce in order to bust the Covid backlogs.

“We have invested £520m to expand GP capacity during the pandemic, on top of £1.5bn until 2024 and we are making 4,000 training places available for GPs each year to help create an extra 50m appointments a year.”