By Local Democracy Reporter
HALF of all GPs and a quarter of nurses are set to retire from practices in mid and south Essex in the next three years – adding further to the workforce pressures of one of the most challenged primary care systems in the country.
A report to Essex County Council has admitted that general practice is significantly understaffed for both GPs and nurses, resulting in a heavy reliance on locums.
In a startling admission into the state of the current medical workforce, a statement says: “The workforce is ageing, with a high proportion able to retire soon – we could lose up to 50 per cent of our GP workforce and 25 per cent of our nursing workforce by 2020/21.
“The strategy has calculated that general practice currently has enough capacity to meet only around 83 per cent of the demand for appointments.
“These factors result in a very high workload in general practice, poor morale, and therefore it is a struggle to recruit and retain the staff needed.
“As a consequence, there is a varied patient experience, and acute activity and clinical outcomes vary widely. In recognition of these systemic issues affecting primary care, the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across the sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) have worked together to develop the STP-wide primary care strategy.”
A new medical school in Chelmsford is due to train 100 medics each year – but the first medics will not graduate for five years after the school opens in September this year.
The CCGs within in the area – Basildon and Brentwood CCG, Castle Point and Rochford CCG, Mid Essex CCG, Southend CCG and Thurrock CCG now face a significant recruitment and staffing problem with an estimated 200 GPs due to retire between now and 2021.
Jo Cripps, chief officer for Mid and South Essex STP told a committee of county councillors on Wednesday: “The focus of the primary care workforce strategy that has been developed is around retention, is around managing the workload and the demands on GP services so we can keep GPs in the system. Around a quarter of GP consultations don’t need to be undertaken by a GP and it is about how we redirect that demand allowing GPs to focus on more complex patients.
“It is multifactorial. How do we use different members of the team to support GPs, how do we link with social care and mental heath care? It is also about recruiting GPs and making Essex a great place to work.
“We’ll all be in the queue for the 100 medical students when they pop out of the other end each year, but it’s about making Essex a great place to work.”