Surgeries in Fleetwood are struggling to find new staff due to poor working conditions

Dr Mark Spencer

Dr Mark Spencer

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Doctors have warned of a looming health crisis unless more is done to attract GPs to Fleetwood and the Wyre.

And Dr Mark Spencer says the problem, which has become a pressing national issue, is particularly bad in the port because it is a deprived area.

GP recruitment problems are most acute in reprived areas.

GP recruitment problems are most acute in reprived areas.

He says most practices in the area have existing vacancies and are struggling to find new recruits.

The GP, who heads the Mount View practice, says attracting new GPs to the port is difficult because ongoing local health problems mean a heavy work load for new recruits – without any extra financial reward.

A key reason for the problem is that as older GPs retire, many newly trained doctors would rather work in hospitals because of better working conditions – leaving worrying shortfalls at GP practices.

Dr Spencer, a GP for 24 years, is calling for the Government to help by providing more funds for practices in deprived areas to help give GPs an incentive to move there.

It is a real problem all over the country, but particularly bad in deprived areas like Fleetwood

He said: “It is a real problem all over the country, but particularly bad in deprived areas like Fleetwood.

“While our immediate difficulties at Mount View has been lessened and patients should not panic, the longer term position is very worrying and needs to be tackled.

“The trouble is that there are just not enough new doctors coming out of medical School who want to become GPs.

“About 30 years ago there was roughly a 50-50 split between doctors going to work in hospitals and those becoming GPs.

“Now it is more like 80-20 in favour of hospitals, because conditions in hospitals there have generally improved as part of EU directives over the last 10 years.

“Our growing ageing population means that GPs are being inundated and the workload is going up. In deprived areas with more health problem, that is even worse.

“But because of the way GPs are paid, their wages come out of a pot and if more nurses are needed to help with greater health problems, there is less in the pot for GPs in deprived areas. That is a real problem.

“One solution to this would be for the Government to help by proving extra funds for deprived area.”

Just 12 months ago the Mount View practice, based at the NHS medical centre on Dock Street and with 12,000 patients on its books, had a full register of eight GPs, some of whom were part-time. This gave the equivalent of 6 full time GPs.

But with some of the doctors retiring or moving away, that figure will fall to the equivalent of just three full time GPs by February 2016.

A new GP has been signed up but she cannot join the team until April, bringing the number up to four, still leaving the practice short of two full time GPs by then.

And there were similar concerns at the Broadway Medical Centre, based at West View Health Village.

The practice, which serves 10,100 patients, should have five GPs but currently only has four, and one of those doctors is part-time.

Practice manager Nicola Wilson said: “Trying to recruit new GPs is a national problem but in Fleetwood it is harder than average.

“Apart from being a deprived area, Fleetwood is at the end of the tracks and out of the way.

“When our current GPs retire in a few years’ time, we could have even bigger problems unless things improve.

“To make things worse, we are getting more and more people moving into Fleetwood from inland and places like Manchester, and with no extra GPs it means the ones we have are even more stretched.”

Bill Barrow is a Fleetwood health campaigner who formerly led Fleetwood Town Council’s health working party, is a patient at Mount View and helps people with mental health problems through his advocacy service.

He said: “This is obviously a major concern and something that Dr Spencer discussed with us during a recent patients’ forum.

“We know it is a national issue but it is obviously a local problem as well.

“A large part of this is down to Government policy on funding - we need more funding to recruit more staff, including mental health specialists for deprived areas like Fleetwood.”