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Revealed: The only region in Britain where GP workload is ‘manageable’

GPs in just one region have said their current workload is ‘manageable’ in the BMA’s latest ‘heat map’ of pressures across England, Scotland and Wales.

The map shows the country is dominated by practices reporting their workload as being ‘often unmanageable’ with hotspots around London, Birmingham, and North Wales.

But in East Yorkshire, the constituency of Beverley and Holderness represents a solitary island of optimism on workload, though local GPs suggest this may equally be a quirk of local workforce demographics.

The map shows that even Beverley and Holderness isn’t immune from some of the pressures – GPs there in all but a handful of constituencies have noticed increasing level of demand from patients.

And they are equally hard pressed to find locum cover.

The BMA heatmap is based on data from the GP Patient Survey, with the BMA updating it throughout the year.

The map, which covers just over 630 constituencies in total, also shows:

  • GPs in just 20 constituencies reported their practice’s current financial position as ‘strong’
  • The quality of service GPs feel they can provide has improved in eight areas, with the majority saying things have deteriorated in the past 12 months
  • Nowhere in the country reported patient demand for appointments decreasing in the past 12 months; just eight said it had stayed the same
  • 15 constituencies reported they had a high number of vacancies for GP positions that had gone unfilled for more than three months.

It comes as Pulse has revealed the average waiting time for a GP appointment could pass two weeks next year, and as GP practice vacancy rates hit their highest-ever levels, with one in eight positions unfilled.

Heat map UK

Heat map UK

Dr Zoe Norris, who lives in the Beverley area and practises in nearby Hull, told Pulse the region may be bearing up because of a younger-than-average practitioner and ‘luck more than anything’.

Dr Norris, who is also a member of action group GP Survival told Pulse it was a desirable area with ‘good housing and schools’ and this helped attract younger GPs and that GPs weren’t leaving en masse – ‘yet’.

Dr Norris said: ‘We get people coming from Scarborough, Hull and York Vocational Training Scheme. Basically it’s a nice place that’s been stable for a number of years and they haven’t been impacted by lots of people leaving, yet.

‘It’s probably just in the age of partners in the past five to 10 years are a bit younger, you haven’t had the spate of retirements that you’ve had elsewhere in the country.’

Humberside LMCs medical director Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told Pulse that every region has patches that are struggling with workload and some that are less affected.

He said: ‘There certainly isn’t a different way of working, or a special initiative in Beverley. I think it’s a combination of population mix and GPs and trainees being relatively close by.

‘Even though in Humberside you have significant recruitment issues, particularly in North and North East Lincolnshire, this is kind of a “good news patch”.’

The GP workload crisis

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted last year that ‘successive governments’ had underfunded general practice as ‘penance’ for the 2004 GP contract and GPs have been beneficiaries of both a ‘new deal’  and a ‘forward view’ in the last 12 months aimed at turning this around.

After a long delay NHS England has begun to put money into initiatives to expand and diversify the workforce in general practice, by recruiting admin assistants or pharmacists, and the GP Forward View was supposed to put a stop to the burden of hospitals dumping workload on GPs.

But as pointed out by GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, NHS England and the Department of Health have let the situation deteriorate for so long that immediate short-term support is needed – something which is lacking in the recent GP Forward View.