A local council will ask the Government for help to fund housing for GPs, in a bid to encourage them to relocate to its under-doctored area.
Swale Borough Council has decided to write to health secretary Steve Barclay asking him to work with the council to provide ‘funded solutions to encourage more GPs to locate in Swale’.
The council said this could include financial assistance given to the council and to GPs ‘to assist with housing for a fixed period’.
The request followed the unanimous passing of a motion during a meeting earlier this month when councillors agreed on the need for more Government support to retain GPs.
Councillors said that Swale has one of the lowest levels of fully-trained GPs per 1,000 patients in England – 0.39 in 2022 – and that this means on average each local GP has more than 2,500 patients.
Councillor Lloyd Bowen, who proposed the motion, said that the shortage of GPs is ‘a concern we cannot ignore’.
He said: ‘I was talking to a GP last night about this and he said “if you were a GP what incentive is there for you to come here and have that number of patients?”
‘We also need to consider GPs themselves and their own wellbeing – a sick GP is no good for the patients and their mental health and wellbeing is of huge importance.’
He also said that the rising cost of living in Swale means local GPs are considering relocation, adding: ‘We cannot let financial constraints deter dedicated doctors from serving our communities – we must do something.’
Councillor Angela Harrison told the meeting that some GP surgeries in the borough have experienced huge rises in rent, and that estates solutions are needed in the short term.
She added: ‘I’m really surprised anyone wants to be a GP these days and I’m even more surprised anyone wants to run a surgery.’
Councillor Tim Gibson, who leads the council, said the cost of living and housing in the area is one of the biggest reasons new GPs won’t relocate to Kent.
He said: ‘We need to make Swale an attractive option for new GPs to locate to and financial assistance from the government given to the council and GPs to assist with the cost of housing would go a long way.’
He also said that there are some places in Swale where there are over 7,000 people to just one fully trained GP and that ‘this is completely unacceptable and needs to be resolved’.
He added: ‘Access to healthcare is a fundamental right and GPs play an important central role, especially with diagnosis and referral.
‘Unfortunately, there is a dire shortage of GPs and recruitment is not able to keep up with the numbers leaving the profession.
‘Couple this with an increase in demand due to the population growth of Swale, hospitals that were already stretched are now under even more pressure.
‘Following the urgent motion at the council meeting we are asking the government to help us solve these issues, through funding and innovative solutions.’
In January, GPs were being offered £15,000 as well as support in relocating, to join practices in deprived and under-staffed areas of the South of England, including Swale.
In August, a Pulse survey found that nearly one in five GP positions in the UK are unfilled according to a Pulse survey, the highest since the data has been collected.