THURROCK Councillors expecting a plan setting out the NHS’s proposals for improving GP services in Thurrock were frustrated at Tuesday (1 December) evening’s meeting of Thurrock’s Health and Well-being Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
In the summer NHS England and the Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had said a plan for dealing with the borough’s chronic shortage of GPs – and the crisis in Tilbury – would be provided in December.
Members agreed that a lot of work had been done and positive steps were being taken – but there was no detailed plan.
In July, Andrew Pike – the Director of Commissioning Operations, NHS Midlands and East – had assured the committee an “Estate Strategy” would be ready by the end of the year.
Committee members were told the NHS was relying on Thurrock Council and its regeneration plans, especially in Tilbury and Purfleet, to provide the new buildings to house a wide range of medical, health, and well-being services.
Ian Wake, the council’s Director of Public Health told the meeting: “Thurrock has some of the worst under-doctoring and under-nursing in the country and by that I mean the number of patients cared for every full time doctor or nurse.”
He said Thurrock had to “do something different” if it was to change things, adding: “There is something about ‘build this and they will come’ but it’s difficult – it’s quite typical in areas that have high levels of population need.
“If we could build something amazing – it terms of multi-disciplinary or several multi-disciplinary centres then that’s certainly becomes more attractive to GPs.
“We want a multi-disciplinary workforce in terms of primary care – yes, that includes adequate GPs and adequate practice managers, but it might include a wellbeing worker; it might include therapists; it might include mental health counsellors.”
He added: “It may include practice pharmacists to do medication reviews; it may include services for wider determinants of health, for example we know 10 to 15 per cent of appointments are taken up by or with patients with issues that aren’t actually clinical, they may be social, lonely, or maybe grieving.”
Mr Wake said he believed this was the best way to attract GPs into the system and become more efficient in the way the system could deal with patients.”
Cllr Barbara Rice, Thurrock Council’s portfolio holder for health, said afterwards: “A great deal has been done by the local NHS CCG working with the council especially, but we were expecting rather more from NHS England.
“Apparently, by having the council provide the physical buildings, we circumvent one layer of NHS bureaucracy. We do want to work with our partners in the NHS, but we need them all to show a commitment too.”
Committee chair, Cllr Graham Snell, added: “It is important to acknowledge the CCG has worked really hard, thus far, to find decent solutions to the problems we are all faced with but they must be aware we are monitoring things really closely.”
And deputy leader of the Conservative group, Cllr James Halden said: “We are trying to deal with a GP crisis in Tilbury, but unless we have forward planning, then we will only have crisis situations to deal with.
“We were promised this ‘estate plan’ and it is still not forthcoming. The committee sent a strong message that we expect a robust plan in place now for March so we can properly consider the forward plan for GPs, which includes spreading best practise and eliminating weakness.”
Members were also told that although the initial focus was on Tilbury and Purfleet, success in these areas should lead to similar projects rolling out across the borough.