TWO Thurrock councillors say they plan to work together to tackle the lack of GPs across the Borough.
Cllr Barbara Rice, portfolio holder for health and her “shadow” Cllr Shane Hebb say they are concerned about the “significant challenges in relation to GPs in the Thurrock area” reports The Thurrock Enquirer.
In April this year the Council took over responsibility for Public Health in Thurrock, but GPs are the responsibility of the new NHS England Essex team.
Cllr Rice said: “In December, Thurrock had three practices in the bottom ten per cent across the whole Midlands and East Region with the next survey due out shortly.”
Cllr Hebb added: “We want to put the health of Thurrock people at the top of every agenda and that means having enough top quality GP services and enough GPs to provide those services for all our residents.”
Cllr Rice said: “For years it has proven difficult to recruit to areas in Essex where there are no established medical schools and where the close proximity to London means that practices face big city competition.
“List sizes are also bigger here than the national average and that can mean patients finding it more difficult to book appointments in a timely way.”
Cllr Hebb said: “When people find it difficult to get a quick appointment at their GP there is an increased tendency for them to head straight to A&E and that’s something the government, the NHS and everybody working in health and care is trying hard to prevent.”
Improving primary care – the first point of contact in the health care system – is one of the Thurrock Health and Wellbeing Board’s priorities and it is being discussed nationally by NHS England.
The first draft of the Essex Primary Care Strategy is due to be consulted upon soon, the Council will be asked its views and both members will be putting forward their thoughts.
The national discussion is expected to include workshops in each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area, including Thurrock and both Cllr Rice and Cllr Hebb say they are maintaining a “keen interest” and will be making sure local people’s views are heard loud and clear.
Cllr Rice said:“If we are to reduce health inequalities in the Borough we must ensure all our partner organisations work together ensuring patients are treated efficiently and effectively in the first place.
“Good primary care is critical if demands on secondary care services like A&E and hospitals are to be effectively managed.”
GP list sizes in Thurrock are, on average, 1,952 per GP while the national average figure is 1,569.