The NHS in Lincolnshire is heading for a major workforce crisis amid claims a culture of fear is leading to a haemorrhaging of frontline staff.
Retired doctor Andrew Mowat says he is concerned hospitals and GP medical practices across Lincolnshire will not be able to cope.
His comments come after the Horncastle News highlighted that in some areas of the county, there is a ratio of one doctor to 4,000 patients - twice the national average.
Dr Mowat, a GP of nearly 20 years’ service in Louth and Woodhall Spa, claims:
l GP recruitment in the East Midlands is down 38 per cent;
l Less than 50 per cent of GPs would recommend their profession as a career choice for doctors in training;
l Half of GPs over the age of 50 are actively considering retiring;
l Up 1,500 junior doctors every week are enquiring about working abroad;
l There is a 40 per cent shortfall in vacancies to join GP training schemes.
Dr Mowat adds that while the Government has promised to recruit 5,000 extra GPs nationally by 2020, the shortfall is likely to be more than double that number.
His claims brought a swift response from the Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group who says it is doing everything it can to attract new staff but admits there is no ‘quick fix solution.’
Dr Mowat says: “Your article, ‘Doctor Who’, highlights one of the recruitment difficulties facing General Practice.
“This is merely the first glimpse of a major workforce crisis in health care, involving GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
“At a time when recruitment is down, the NHS is haemorrhaging health professionals whose lives have been made more difficult by rising demand, increasing bureaucracy and a culture of fear, largely due to organisations such as the Care Quality Commission.”
Dr Mowat goes on to say the use of Nurse Practitioners to fill shortages of GPs is not a long-term solution.
He adds: “While Nurse Practitioners are a valuable asset, particularly in expanding capacity to deal with more immediate health problems, they do not replace the full skill set of doctors and there always be problems which can only be dealt with by a doctor.”
He also criticises the Government for trying to impose new contracts on junior doctors and questions plans to introduce seven-day a week appointments.
Dr Mowat says: “Lincolnshire needs to prepare itself for this workforce crisis which will manifest itself fully in two to five years from now.”
He adds: “I am anxious about being a patient in Lincolnshire in the years to come.”
Dr Mowat stresses the shortage of doctors will also hit hospitals.
The East Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) admits it is struggling to retain and recruit staff but stresses it is a national problem.
The News put retired doctor Andrew Mowat’s claims to the CCG.
CCG spokesman Simon Hopkinson said they were developing a number of initiatives to try to address the problem.
However, he admitted there are no quick fix solutions.
He added the CCG was working closely with the University of Lincoln to recruit more nurses to join GP practices.
Mr Hopkinson said: “GP recruitment and retention is challenging across the country, including in Lincolnshire, and a number of our GP practices are struggling to recruit.
“As a clinically-led organisation it is in our interest to do whatever we can to support recruitment and retention of clinical staff.
“We are working with our practices, NHS England and the Lincolnshire Medical Committee to develop a number of initiatives to try and address this.
“We are also working closely with the University of Lincoln, in an effort to encourage more people to train as nurses locally and join local GP practices.
“However, there is no quick fix.”
NHS England confirmed last month that a ‘golden welcome’ scheme had been rolled out across the area earlier this year in a bid to attract new GPs.
The CCG has denied statements made in a recent Horncastle Town Council meeting that two doctors were responsible for 9,000 patients.
The CGC says that there has never been any less than three doctors