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GPs in areas where the workforce crisis is biting hardest have to spend more than an hour a day longer seeing patients, new figures show.

The RCGP estimated the extra workload after analysing Department of Health figures, which showed practices in areas with the fewest GPs had 400 more patients per doctor on average than the best staffed regions.

South Yorkshire is the worst hit area, with fewer than 51 GPs per 100,000 people and an average list of 1,963.

The figure compared with North Central London, which has almost 64 GPs per 100,000 people and an average list of 1,564.

If each patient visited their GP four times a year for a 10-minute consultation, the difference between the two areas would be more than an hour a day, the RCGP said.

GPs said the results showed ministers' claims that the country was 'over-run with GPs' as a result of recent recruitment were false.

Doncaster LMC medical secretary Dr Rosie Hamlin said the area had long-standing problems recruiting GPs. Scrapping the Medical Practices Committee and ending maximum list sizes had made the situation even worse.

She added: 'We have relied heavily in the past on registrar GPs and the slashing of deanery budgets has not helped.'

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said that although his practice is in the best-staffed area of North Central London, it 'did not feel like that'.

He added 'It gives us more evidence that the Government line that we are over-run with GPs isn't true.'

He warned the Government against cutting funding for GP training, and said a 'whole package' of incentives were needed for hard-hit areas rather than quick fixes such as golden hellos.

The RCGP report also warned that a 'bulge' in the number of GPs aged 40 to 49 was a major issue for future workforce planning.

Almost two GPs in five are now in the age range, compared with just 26 per cent in 1983. It also estimated fewer than 500 whole-time equivalent GPs had been recruited since 1999, despite Government figures that showed a headcount rise of 1,411 GPs last year alone.

By Nerys Hairon

The GP workforce

2003 Source RCGP

Worst staffed areas

NHS Plan GPs

per 100,000


South Yorkshire 50.95

Greater Manchester 51.12

Essex 52.53

The best

North Central London 63.94

Thames Valley 61.85

North West London 61.60

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